California Vehicle Code (VC) section 23103.5
A California "wet reckless" is generally the first level of DUI reduction that the prosecution will offer. The "wet" in a California wet reckless implies that you were involved in an alcohol (or even drug) related driving offense.
A California wet reckless is unique because it's not a charge for which you can be arrested. It is a charge that is only offered as a plea bargained settlement in place of a DUI (under Vehicle Code 23103 per 23103.5). There are definite advantages to a wet reckless over a DUI. In fact, it is a total victory if the choice is between a DUI and a wet reckless. On the other hand, compared with being charged with nothing, there are some drawbacks with a wet reckless where it is somewhat like a DUI as well.
Benefits and Advantages of a California Wet Reckless Instead of a DUI
The following are definite benefits and advantages of a Wet Reckless charge instead of a DUI in California.
(1) No mandatory Sentence Enhancements. Unlike DUIs, there are no mandatory sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders. This means that if you had a prior DUI you do not have to automatically have a more serious offense with enhanced penalties. For example, each time you get convicted for a California DUI within a ten year "look back" period, your jail sentence and license suspension automatically increase. For example, a second time DUI carries a minimum 96 hours of jail, while a third time DUI requires a minimum 120 days jail. These are just statutory minimum California DUI penalties....many counties impose more jail time for repeat offenders.
But a wet reckless conviction entails no mandatory jail time, regardless of how many DUI priors the person has. Someone facing a third time California DUI charge can potentially escape 120 days or more of jail by getting the charge reduced down to a wet reckless. Thus, multiple offenders tend to benefit the most from this type of plea bargain.
(2) Shorter county jail sentence. Unlike a DUI that carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and up to a year for a second or third offense, a California wet reckless has a 90-day limit which is hardly ever applied. This distinction becomes important in the event of a probation violation where one may be required to serve time that was stayed when one was originally sentenced to probation as long as one displayed good conduct.
(3) Shorter probation period. A California DUI typically carries a three- to five-year probationary period. Probation for a California wet reckless charge usually only lasts one or two years. It's definitely better to have a shorter probationary period, because when you're on active probation it will show up on employer background checks.
Also, you generally do not qualify to get the conviction expunged until probation has expired.
(4) Lesser fines. The maximum fine for a DUI is $2,300, whereas the maximum fine for a wet reckless is much less, around $1,000. Moreover, the actual fines imposed in connection with a wet reckless are typically half or less of what you would pay if convicted of a California DUI. Throw in court-imposed "penalty assessments" and many people convicted of a DUI end up paying as much as $3,000 to $3,500 in fines.
(5) No mandatory license suspension. Even a first time DUI triggers a four or six month driver’s license suspension, two years for a second offense and three years for a third offense. Even first time DUI convictions trigger a one-year "hard" suspension in the case of a chemical test refusal; or underage driver with a DUI. And someone caught driving on a suspended license in California faces a separate criminal charge, jail time and a probation violation.
But a wet reckless conviction triggers no license suspension. This can be especially beneficial in a DUI with priors or refusal case, where the person faces at least a year of hard suspension. It should be noted, however, that the person could still receive a separate suspension if he loses his DMV hearing. Thus he must both get the DUI charge reduction in court and prevail at the DMV in order to escape the driver's license suspension altogether.
There are other advantages to a wet-reckless over a DUI, such as a shorter 'mandatory; offender courses, and usually there is no adverse effect on certain professional licenses or commercial driver's licenses as would a DUI conviction.
Drawbacks of a California Wet Reckless Making it Similar to a DUI
There are instances when a wet reckless is similar or identical to a DUI such as:
(1) The wet reckless will still count as a prior DUI if you are arrested for subsequent DUIS over the next 10 years after the wet reckless.
(2) In some instances, such as when your BAC was a 0.08% or above, and you lose your DMV hearing, you may still lose your driver's license. And
(3) In some instances, your insurance company may treat your wet reckless.
When Can the Lee Law Group Often Get your DUI Reduced to a Wet Reckless?
A wet reckless is by no means offered in every DUI case and must be worked at through the plea bargaining process. However, the Lee Law Group is often able to get your DUI plea bargained to a Wet Reckless under Vehicle Code section 23103, per 23103.5 when:
(1) your blood alcohol content (BAC) is close to 0.08%, or
(2) there are some other weaknesses in the "People's" case against you, so the prosecutor would rather see you convicted of an offense than risk losing at trial. The Lee Law Group attorneys are skilled in showing prosecutors the practical difficulties they may face in proving your case 'beyond a reasonable doubt' causing them to agree to reduce your DUI to a wet reckless.
If you are a DUI "repeat offender", political pressure may prevent the prosecutor from plea bargaining your case down to a wet reckless charge. However, procedural flaws in the DUI arrest/investigation and/or unique mitigating circumstances surrounding the offense may override that pressure.
We at the Lee Law Group know how to raise legal arguments, as the fact allow, chipping away at the prosecutor’s case by illuminating its flaws and thereby making it more difficult for them to prove you were DUI beyond a reasonable doubt. This often makes it must easier to manage a plea bargain of your DUI down to a mere wet-reckless offense.
California Dry Reckless
California Vehicle Code (VC) section 23103
A "dry reckless" is simply a misdemeanor 'reckless driving' charge pursuant to Vehicle Code section 23103. Reckless driving is defined as driving with a flagrant disregard for people or property. When a "dry" is negotiated for in a California DUI plea bargain, as opposed to being charged as a crime in and of itself, it is akin to a lesser form of ‘wet-reckless. That is, a dry reckless is to be differentiated from, but related to, a wet-reckless in that both are offenses that are often plea bargained to instead of the attorney's client receiving a DUI.
Benefits and Advantageous of a California Dry Reckless Instead of a DUI
As you can probably guess, a wet reckless refers to an alcohol or drug related driving offense. Similar to that of a 'wet reckless', a California dry reckless has significant advantages over a California DUI.
The following are definite benefits and advantages of a Dry Reckless charge instead of a DUI in California.
(1) No mandatory Sentence Enhancements. Unlike a California DUI, the sentence for a dry reckless does not automatically increase with each subsequent conviction. While it is true that a judge may sentence you to harsher penalties if you are repeatedly convicted of reckless driving, there is no mandatory requirement for doing so like there is with multiple DUI convictions.
(2) Shorter county jail sentence. Under Vehicle Code section 23103, a dry reckless only subjects you to a maximum 90-day county jail sentence. By contrast, a California DUI carries a maximum six-month sentence (which increases to one year for a second or third offense).
This distinction is particularly important in the event you that you suffer a probation violation probation. 90 days will be the absolute limit that you can be sentenced to for the dry reckless charge, which is half (if not a quarter) of what you would face for a DUI conviction.
Unlike a DUI that carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and up to a year for a second or third offense, a California wet reckless has a 90-day limit. This distinction becomes important in the event of a probation violation.
(3) Shorter probation period. Probation for a dry reckless conviction will typically only last one or two years. Probation for a California DUI typically lasts between three and five years. This advantage (as the one stated above) becomes critical in the event that you unfortunately get arrested for another crime, such as another DUI or driving with a suspended license in California. If your probation has expired, it follows that you can't be sentenced for a probation violation.
(4) A reduced fine. The potential maximum fine for both a California DUI is $2,300. Throw in court-imposed "penalty assessments" and many people convicted of a DUI end up paying as much as $3,000 to $3,500 in fines. However, the fine the average offender pays for the dry reckless is usually from $500 to $1,000 with all added penalty assessments included.
(5) No mandatory court-ordered license suspension. A California DUI conviction triggers a six-month driver's license suspension, longer if the person has prior DUI or wet reckless convictions. But a dry reckless under California Vehicle Code 23103 does not trigger a license suspension (although it adds 2 points to your driving record, which could contribute to a negligent operator license suspension).
(6) No DUI school or, at the most, a six-week program. A California DUI conviction mandates that you complete a minimum three-month alcohol education program, 18 months for multiple offenders. There is no such requirement with a dry reckless conviction.
However, as part of a negotiated plea bargain, the prosecutor and/or judge may require that you participate in a six-week program.
It should also be noted that a California dry reckless will not invite the same scrutiny that a DUI or "wet" reckless would with respect to professional or commercial licenses. This is because a dry reckless conviction is simply recorded as misdemeanor reckless driving. Unlike a California wet reckless conviction, there is no automatic association with a DUI.
Benefits and Advantageous of a California Dry Reckless Instead of a California Wet Reckless
There are two major benefits and advantageous that distinguishes a California dry reckless from a California wet reckless. These are:
(1) A dry reckless under California Vehicle Code 23103 is not "priorable". California DUIS and wet reckless convictions are both priorable offenses. This means that if you have a conviction for either offense and then have the misfortune of being convicted of a second or subsequent DUI within a ten-year period, your penalties will increase exponentially. A California dry reckless does not trigger this same action. If you have a dry reckless conviction on your record, and subsequently get convicted of a DUI, you will still be sentenced as a first-time DUI offender.
(2) Insurance Treatment. Insurance companies definitely "prefer" a reckless driving conviction to a wet reckless. A California DUI conviction will most likely cause your insurer to either cancel your policy or significantly increase your premium. In fact, if you are convicted for DUI you must augment your auto insurance coverage with special liability (SR22) insurance before your suspended driver's license is reinstated. A California wet-reckless conviction may, although not a certainty, cause your insurer to increase your premium, perhaps substantially. Conversely, a California a dry reckless driving conviction most likely will not lead to a cancellation of your policy or cause your auto insurance premium to significantly increase.
When Can the Lee Law Group Often Get your DUI Reduced to a Dry Reckless?
Because a California dry reckless is not a "prior-able" offense, prosecutors hesitate to offer it as a DUI reduction. That said, a prosecutor is most likely to agree to a dry reckless reduction when:
(1) Your BAC is close to 0.08%, and, or
(2) There are serious flaws with the "People's" case against you. We at the Lee Law Group know how to raise legal arguments, as the fact allow, chipping away at the prosecutor’s case by illuminating its flaws and thereby making it more difficult for them to prove you were DUI beyond a reasonable doubt. This often makes it must easier to manage a plea bargain of your DUI down to a mere wet-reckless offense.