A comprehensive picture of the dc current-voltage (I-V) characteristics of rf-driven Josephson junctions in the low-frequency regime is presented. The boundary of the low-frequency regime is roughly defined by the junction characteristic frequency for overdamped junctions, and by the inverse of the junction damping time for underdamped junctions. An adiabatic model valid for the low-frequency regime is used to describe the overall shapes of the I-V curves, which is in good agreement with both the numerical simulations and the experimental results. For underdamped junctions, the Shapiro steps are the prominent features on the I-V curves if the rf frequency is sufficiently below the boundary. As the rf frequency is increased towards the boundary, large negatively-going tails on top of the Shapiro steps are observed both experimentally and numerically. Numerical simulations using the resistively- and capacitively-shunted-junction model (RCSJ model) reveal that the negatively-going tail is a signature of the low-frequency boundary of the junction chaotic regime. With use of the adiabatic model and the existence of plasma oscillations for underdamped junctions, the onset of chaos and its effect on the Shapiro steps can be fully explained. The high-frequency limit of the adiabatic model and the chaotic behavior of the Josephson junctions beyond the low-frequency regime are also briefly discussed. © 1990 The American Physical Society.