When charged with a DUI in California, the prosecutor can opt to resolve the case by plea bargaining, where you plead to a lesser charge. Typically, this happens when insufficient evidence demonstrates that you were drinking and driving or your BAC was below the designated limit. The most prevalent reduced charge you can face is wet reckless, also known as wet and reckless. Prosecutors only offer the charge in a plea deal for a first DUI offense with slim chances for 2nd-time offenders. You escape the severe consequences of a DUI conviction when convicted of a wet and reckless.

The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can help when apprehended for drunk driving and wish the offense reduced to wet reckless. In this article, we have defined a wet reckless charge, why the prosecutor approves it as a substitute for DUI charges, its merits and disadvantages, and the benefits for an in-depth understanding of the offense.

General View of Wet Reckless

The wet reckless charge is a nickname for reckless driving stemming from a plea deal to DUI charges in VC 23152 and includes a note on your criminal record that you were drunk or drugged. With wet reckless, the prosecutor agrees to drop the severer offense of driving under the influence, and in turn, you plead guilty or no contest to a reduced charge of wet and reckless. Therefore, the police cannot arrest you, or the prosecutor cannot formally charge you with a wet reckless. For you to be eligible for this drinking and driving reduced charge, you must meet the following stipulations:

  • You must have a BAC of .08% or above
  • There is proof you had a rising BAC
  • You lack a prior record of alcohol or drug-related crimes
  • The officer who flagged you down in traffic had no probable cause
  • Chemical testing did not comply with Title 17 requirements

The prosecutor wants a conviction and does not want to risk going to trial with a count they are likely to lose and see you walk free. Therefore, when they discover the evidence against you for VC 23152(a) or VC 23512(b) violation is insufficient to earn a conviction, they will approve a plea agreement where you plead guilty for a lesser offense. Even though the penalties will be lesser than those of a DUI sentence, you will be criminally liable for your actions under the law.

Once your defense team and the prosecutor agree on the deal, it is presented before a judge for approval. After the court has approved the agreement, you plead guilty or no contest to the offense of reckless driving in VC 23103.5. Under this statute, once sentenced to a lesser charge, the criminal court will indicate that alcohol or drugs were part of the crime. They will then forward the notation to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), who will include it on your criminal record.

Your chances of a DUI reduced charge are minimal with two or more prior drunk driving sentences. So, instead of approving the deal and then later being denied, you should have your criminal attorney examine your look-back duration for DUI sentences and their validity. Even if you have multiple convictions, the attorney can convince the court some of the sentences are invalid and, therefore, should not count as priors. That way, you will compel the court and the prosecutor to lower the original DUI offense to wet reckless.

Also, an attorney will help you weigh the merits and demerits of pleading guilty to wet reckless for an informed decision. Under particular circumstances, a lesser charge will be ideal. Nonetheless, with multiple prior wet reckless sentences, another one will not be ideal because the offense is priorable, and subsequent sentences will result in harsher consequences. Therefore, have an attorney examine your look back. If it is clean, pleading guilty or no contest to a wet and reckless will is ideal. However, if you have multiple priors with the look-back duration, you should proceed with the original DUI charge to trial.

Distinction Between Wet Reckless and DUI

VC 23152(a) prohibits you from driving a car while drunk. You will face this charge regardless of whether your BAC was within the designated limit of below .08%. Also, a VC 23152(a) violation means the alcohol has impaired your psychological and physical capacity to the extent you cannot exercise the caution a sober person would exercise under your circumstances. The first three DUI offenses are misdemeanors punishable by court fines, informal probation, revocation of driving privileges, and mandatory DUI School.

Another DUI statute is VC 23152(b), which prohibits drivers from operating a car with a blood alcohol mass of .08% or higher. Under the statute, you are guilty of drunk driving if a chemical test or breathalyzer result shows the weight of alcohol in your blood exceeds the designated limit. The critical element the prosecutor needs to demonstrate under this section is that your BAC exceeded what the law provides. Whether you exhibit any signs of intoxication is not essential.

Under VC 23103.5, you can reduce any of these two DUI charges to wet and reckless, an informal name for reckless driving. The charge stems from a DUI reduced charge or plea bargain. Wet reckless is preferred by many prosecutors over other DUI plea deals like speed exhibition and dry reckless as it is a priorable offense. A second or subsequent conviction will result in harsher consequences when sentenced for a wet and reckless charge.

There are three essential differences between a wet reckless and DUI. First, a wet and reckless sentence is a lesser offense than a DUI and triggers lesser penalties. A conviction for the same will not hinder your professional license, unlike a DUI sentence which will result in a lifetime ban from practicing nursing.

Similarly, unlike a drinking and driving charge that triggers mandatory license suspension and requires installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle before driving, a wet reckless is less likely to trigger a license revocation. However, the court’s decision does not impact your administrative hearing. The DMV can suspend your driver’s license even if the court has not done the same.

Also, you will not need an IID in your vehicle. Nonetheless, a conviction will add two points to your driving record, increasing your insurance premiums and losing discounts associated with being a good driver.

Moreover, wet reckless attracts substantially reduced fines and a minimum jail time, if any. Jail incarceration for a wet reckless sentence does not exceed ninety days, while a first-offense DUI results in a jail sentence downwards of six months. You will most likely be sentenced to misdemeanor probation instead of a jail sentence when you plead to a lesser DUI charge. While on probation, you must adhere to all the terms imposed by the court. A violation of these terms could result in the revocation of your probation and being sentenced to serve the original jail time.

Wet and Dry Reckless Distinction

The critical difference between wet and dry reckless is whether there will be a notation of drunk or drugged driving at the time of the offense. A wet reckless sentence will have a note on your record, but with a dry reckless conviction, no notation on your criminal record.

Dry reckless is another VC 23103 reckless driving name and stems from a DUI plea deal. The fact that no notation is included in your criminal record by the DMV for this sentence means you were not necessarily driving recklessly.

Also, wet and reckless are priorable, but dry reckless is not. Even when sentenced to dry reckless, subsequent sentences will not result in sentence enhancement. However, you will face severe penalties when convicted of a wet reckless and obtain another within the look-back duration.

Obtaining a Wet Reckless Deal

Before a wet and reckless plea deal goes through, the opposing sides must agree to it. Afterward, the prosecutor takes the agreement before the court for approval. Once everyone is on board, you will enter a no contendere or guilty plea to reckless driving. The judge will then proceed to dismiss the original DUI charge and inform the DMV so that they can add a notation to your record.

Your wet reckless plea deal is suitable based on the case’s nature. First, the judge will establish whether you have prior drunk driving or a wet and reckless sentence within ten years. The possible sentence for a subsequent conviction within the duration will result in sentence enhancement.  

Advantages of Wet Reckless Over a DUI

The suitability of this reduced drunk driving offense depends on your case’s circumstances. Usually, it hinged on your prior DUI or wet reckless sentence. It is essential to have an attorney examine the advantages and disadvantages of a plea bargain to determine if a plea deal is good for you. Some of the benefits of pleading guilty to a wet and reckless are:

  1. You Obtain a Reduced Jail Sentence than that of a Usual DUI

A sentence for a wet reckless requires you to serve a county jail sentence of at most 90 days. A DUI conviction attracts a penalty of no more than 180 days jail sentence for a first-time offense and up to twelve months for a second and third offense. When you compare these two sentences, wet reckless is far much shorter.

The difference between the two charges becomes even more apparent when the court sentences you to informal probation instead of jail time. When you violate a probation sentence for a reduced DUI, the criminal court will impose the maximum original sentence of 90 days. However, for an individual sentenced to informal probation for a DUI offense, a violation of probation terms will result in serving the initial jail sentence of six months, which is twice that of a wet reckless.

  1. Less Mandatory Jail Sentence for Repeat Lawbreakers

The jail sentence for a wet reckless is substantially shorter than that of a DUI. The difference is more notable with at least a drinking and driving or wet reckless prior. As a repeat offender, you will face a compulsory minimum sentence of five days when you gain a subsequent conviction for a wet reckless offense. The sentence will remain the same regardless of your priors with the look-back duration.

The compulsory minimum jail sentence for a DUI repeat offender is at least ninety days for a second offense and no less than 120 days for a third-time offender. When you compare the two sentences for repeat lawbreakers, the jail sentence for a wet reckless is shorter.

  1. Pleasant and Shorter Probationary Period

A conviction for wet reckless can result in misdemeanor probation for 12 to 24 months. A typical DUI sentence is punishable by a 36 to 60 months misdemeanor probationary period. Looking at the two offenses, you realize a wet reckless has a shorter probationary duration which is beneficial because a criminal expunction requires you to complete the probation period. Therefore, with a wet reckless, you can apply for an expunction earlier than the person sentenced to probation for a DUI. After the record has been expunged, it will not show up during background checks by employers, and you can confidently say that you have never been convicted.

Therefore, it is advisable to seek a charge reduction to a wet reckless because, after 12 or 24 months of probation, you can seek an expunction of the record and obtain a clean slate earlier than an individual sentenced to misdemeanor probation for a DUI.

  1. No Compulsory Court-Imposed License Revocation

Once you obtain a wet reckless sentence, the judge will not suspend or revoke your driving rights, unlike a DUI conviction where you face a compulsory license suspension for at least six months if you are a first-time offender. The license suspension period for a second-time DUI offender is a minimum of twenty-four months, while a third offense within the look-back duration attracts at least 36 months of driver's license suspension.

Particular DUI sentences could result in a hard suspension of twelve months of your driver’s license. Under this suspension, you are not eligible for a restricted license, meaning you must rely on your family and friends to drive you to work or alcohol education programs. Hard driver’s license suspension is triggered when you fail to submit to chemical testing or underage drinking and driving. In wet reckless, these aggravating circumstances will not trigger a license suspension. Instead, the judge will only order the installation of an IID in your vehicle.

Nevertheless, even when you escape the court-order driver’s license suspension, the DMV will suspend your driving rights after thirty days if you do not request a hearing within ten days of the arrest. At the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we recommend you request a hearing to protect your driving privileges until the administrative hearing is concluded.

  1. Shorter Education Program or DUI Education

A first-time wet reckless sentence will result in compulsory DUI School for six weeks. This is a shorter duration than that of a DUI sentence which is between eighteen to thirty months. However, the mandatory school program will be increased to nine months if you have multiple wet reckless convictions within the look-back period.

  1. No Compulsory Revocation of Your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

When sentenced for a DUI, you risk CDL suspension. Unlike DUI, a wet reckless will not result in the suspension of the license. Instead, you will accumulate two points on your DMV record.

  1. Cheaper Monetary Court Fines

A wet reckless sentence attracts lower court fines ranging from $145 to $1,000. On the other hand, a DUI sentence is punishable by court fines of $1,000 to $3,000. Therefore, by pleading guilty to a DUI reduced charge, you pay a fraction of the amount an individual convicted of a DUI would pay.

The Downside or Implications of a wet Reckless

Although a wet reckless has many benefits over a DUI offense, a conviction has implications. These implications are:

  • The sentence will still be added to your criminal record
  • Auto insurers companies consider a wet reckless the same offense as a DUI
  • The offense is priorable
  • A sentence adds two points to your DMV record
  • The DMV can still suspend your license

Wet Reckless Related Plea Deals

Aside from wet and reckless, other plea bargains available for the prosecutor are:

Speed Exhibition

Per PEN 23109, it is a crime to accelerate at an unsafe or dangerous speed which could cause you to lose control of the vehicle endangering yourself and other road users. Another requirement under the statute is you must accelerate when intoxicated by alcohol or controlled substances. The crucial element is accelerating too fast. You will face a conviction even when you fail to accelerate above the designated speed limit. The facts of the crime are as follows:

  • You were operating a car
  • While driving, you willfully accelerated or pushed the car to an unsafe speed
  • Your intent during speeding was to impress
  • You helped or aided someone else’s criminal conduct

You can plead guilty to speed exhibition when charged with a DUI because it attracts lesser penalties. A speed exhibition plea deal will benefit you as you only have to pay minimal fines of $500, shorter probation of twenty-four months, and a shorter jail sentence. Additionally, unlike DUI, the offense is not priorable.

Publicly Drunk

PEN 624(f) criminalizes the act of risking other people’s or property safety by being drunk to the level you cannot exercise the care a sober person would under your circumstances. A violation of the statute happens when your drunkenness hinders other persons from relishing their privileges in a public setting. The prosecutor will gain a conviction under this statute if they can prove that:

  • You were knowingly intoxicated
  • You were intoxicated in a place open to the public
  • Due to your intoxication, you obstructed or hindered the free utilization of sidewalks or streets

The punishment for the offense includes:

  • Court fines of at most $1,000
  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Jail sentence of at most six months

Nonetheless, you can avoid these consequences by putting up a solid defense. Your attorney can start by maintaining you were not in a public setting when you engaged in the behavior. Instead, you were in your home or hotel room.

Similarly, you can assert that drunkenness was not voluntary. For this defense to work, you must prove you were unaware your beverage contained alcohol, or another person slipped drugs into your drink, leading to the intoxication.

Also, if the police arrested you without observing any conduct that endangered the safety of others, you can argue a lack of probable cause. If the arrest were illegal, the case against you would be dismissed.

Dry Reckless

Also known as reckless driving under VC 23103, dry reckless is a misdemeanor charge resulting from a DUI plea deal. You will face this reduced sentence if you portray disregard for the safety of road users and property. The prosecutor brings this offer to the table when they lack sufficient evidence or if the arresting officer violated Title 17 when conducting the chemical or breath test.

Title 17 is there to ensure the reliability and accuracy of test results. If any of the regulations provided were violated, then the results are unreliable and should be dismissed. If this is your case, the prosecutor is left with a feeble case which is when they offer a dry reckless plea deal. The benefits of a dry reckless are:

  • It is not alcohol-related and thus does not affect your driving rights
  • It is not a priorable offense and therefore does not impact future sentences

Additionally, car insurers will be less concerned about the sentence as it does not involve alcohol.

Find an Experienced DUI Attorney Near Me

California harshly punishes individuals charged with violation of DUI laws. However, you can avoid these severe penalties with the help of an experienced legal defense team. At the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we can help you have the DUI charge lowered to a wet reckless through a plea deal. Call us today at 424-333-0943 to educate you more on the benefits of a wet reckless and how it can apply in your case to reduce the punishment of a DUI.