California DUI charges can have a lasting impact on your criminal record. A DUI offense will result in severe consequences, including jail time, fines, loss of your driver's license, and the offense will remain on your record for ten years.
Most DUI defense attorneys attempt to seek a plea bargain to obtain a charge for a less serious offense, such as wet reckless or dry reckless. These offenses have less severe consequences, and in the case of dry reckless, the offense is not priorable.
At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we take the plea bargaining seriously. We negotiate with the prosecution to receive the least possible offense (if not a dismissal) based on the circumstances of the offense and the available evidence.
Dry Reckless as a DUI Charge Reduction
The prosecution often offers plea deals to offenders, either with lower sentences, reduced charges or with fewer of multiple charges. These plea deals either save time for the court, reduce the cost of a trial, secure convictions earlier, and avoid a trial, especially when the case is weak.
Unless you plead guilty to the charges during an arraignment, you will go through the plea bargaining process, usually at the pre-trial stage of the criminal process. At this stage, the prosecution and defense will present their evidence and arguments, file motions, and present witnesses to attempt to fight these charges or prove the defendant's guilt or innocence.
Plea bargaining is a common practice for DUI cases due to the variables usually present in these cases. Some of these could include problems with proving the level of the BAC, inconsistencies in police reports, problems with DUI field sobriety tests, or presenting sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant is guilty or innocent of the offense.
Plea bargains in DUI cases help the defendant avoid the uncertainty of going to trial. In most cases, the plea bargain seeks to reduce the charge or the sentence.
The prosecution agrees to reduce the DUI to a wet reckless or dry reckless charge in a charge reduction. These offenses have lesser consequences compared to a DUI conviction.
On the other hand, a sentence reduction involves pleading guilty or no-contest to the charges in exchange for a predetermined sentence.
Charge reductions in DUI cases are common where:
- The evidence the prosecution has is strong.
- The defendant has a low tolerance for risk (the uncertainty of going to trial is higher than that of the plea deal)
- The prosecution offers a good deal.
Charge reductions are easier for first DUI offenses with no injury since your defense attorney can point to your good driving record before the offense. Even people charged with second and subsequent offenses, including DUI with injury, defense attorneys could still manage to secure a charge reduction.
The advantages of a plea bargain for a lesser charge such as dry reckless include:
- You can avoid a mandatory license suspension, especially if you do not have many points on your driving record. Every dry reckless conviction adds two points on your DMV driving record. When these points accumulate, your license could be suspended for being a negligent operator. You could also lose your driver’s license if you lost at the administrative hearing, especially if you are later convicted.
- A dry reckless offense is not priorable (it will not count as a DUI offense if you are charged with another DUI offense). While having many dry reckless convictions on your records could earn you points as a habitual traffic offender and could lead to harsher sentences, the law does not mandate a judge to apply stiffer sentences for your case.
- The fines are lower compared to those of DUI offenses. A DUI offense is likely to accumulate costs of up to $3,000, including fines and penalty assessment fees. For a DUI offense, you will pay a minimum fine of $390 compared to a minimum of $145 for a dry reckless offense.
- You will not need to drive with an ignition interlock device. Ignition interlock devices are necessary after a DUI conviction if you intend to keep your driving privileges. However, with a dry reckless conviction, your license will not be suspended. Therefore, you do not need an IID.
- You will spend little to no jail time for a dry reckless offense, usually less than 90 days, compared to a minimum of six months for a first DUI conviction and a minimum of one year for subsequent convictions. Although a DUI and a dry reckless are both misdemeanors, dry reckless is still a less serious offense. Even a probation violation after a dry reckless conviction comes with lesser jail time of a maximum of 90 days.
- You will serve lesser time on probation for a dry reckless conviction. Usually, the probation period for reckless driving is a maximum of two years, unlike three to five years for a misdemeanor DUI offense. A shorter probation period reduces the chances of violating probation.
- You do not have to attend a mandatory DUI school.
- Dry reckless comes with less stigma.
- A dry reckless charge has a lower impact on your insurance premiums. Auto insurance companies are less likely to scrutinize a dry reckless conviction as they would a DUI or a Wet reckless charge.
Legal Definition of Dry Reckless
A dry reckless charge is simply a charge of reckless driving VC 23103. Reckless driving in California refers to driving a car in a manner that shows a reckless disregard for the safety of other people and their property.
The elements of reckless driving include:
- You were driving a vehicle on a highway or off-street parking facility, and
- You drove with a wanton disregard for the safety of people and property.
The definition of a highway under the stature in an area includes a street publicly maintained and is open to the public for vehicular transportation.
An off-street parking facility is a privately or publicly owned parking facility open for the public to park their vehicles.
You display a wanton disregard for the safety of other people or their property when you:
- Are aware that your actions present a significant and unjustifiable risk of harm
- And you intentionally ignore the risk you pose.
Asserting that you did not intend to injure people or damage property does not excuse reckless driving.
When used as a plea bargain for DUI offenses, VC 23103 includes the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor probation of up to five years (in most cases, the defendant will serve probation for up to two years when convicted)
- A maximum jail sentence of one year
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
Prosecutors are more inclined to reduce a DUI to a wet reckless than to a dry reckless. Reducing a DUI to a dry reckless is less common and occurs when:
- You had a BAC close to .08%
- The prosecution's evidence against you has serious flaws (for instance, the prosecution cannot establish whether you were driving or were resting in your car)
The strength of the defense your attorney presents will determine whether the prosecution agrees to a plea bargain or goes to trial, confident that it can secure a conviction.
Some of the legal defenses that your attorney could use to punch holes in the prosecution’s case include:
- Pointing out the inherent unreliability of breath testing equipment and field sobriety tests in determining the BAC level or intoxication of a driver, for instance, a breath test equipment cannot differentiate between mouth alcohol and the deep alveolar air.
- Violations of Title 17 protocols regulate the collection, storage, testing, and preservation of blood and urine samples used for DUI evidence. These violations could compromise a sample. For example, cleaning the testing equipment with an alcohol-based agent introduces alcohol into the sample, making it unusable.
- The defendant could have medical or other conditions that affect the level of alcohol in their body. For example, a person on a keto diet is likely to have a high BAC. Even if he or she consumed alcohol before driving, the results would not reflect the (intoxicating) alcohol in the body.
Other DUI charge reductions other than dry reckless exist. They include:
- Wet reckless, which is usually a reckless driving charge with a notation that the offense involved drugs or alcohol. It is a more serious offense compared to dry reckless and is a DUI priorable offense. However, it has lesser jail time, lower fines, and a lower risk of court-ordered license suspension.
- Your attorney could have a DUI reduced to exhibition of speed. This is a less common DUI charge reduction. While it is still a misdemeanor, it has fewer penalties, including little to no jail time, shorter probation, and lower fines. The prosecution will agree to the exhibition of speed as a DUI charge reduction if its case is weak. However, a conviction for speed exhibition will earn some points to your driving record.
- The prosecution could agree to reduce a DUI to a drunk in public charge, particularly if it cannot establish whether you were driving. Drunk in public is a California misdemeanor with lower fines and jail time. The offense does not earn points to your driving record, as it is not a driving-related offense.
- Your DUI charge could also be reduced to drinking alcohol in a vehicle. California considers it an offense to consume alcoholic beverages in a vehicle on a public street, which is a non-criminal infraction whose penalty is a fine. The offense will not add points to your driver’s license.
- As a last resort, the prosecution could offer traffic infractions as DUI plea bargains, especially where the prosecution believes DUI charges will not prevail at trial. The prosecution typically offers two moving violations as a plea bargain. This is common where the prosecution believes the case involves too many Title 17 violations, and it cannot validate the BAC chemical test results.
Comparing Wet and Dry Reckless
The prosecution could reduce a DUI charge to a wet reckless or a dry reckless offense. A wet reckless offense is one where alcohol is involved. It is reckless driving, but the court will add a notation on your record, indicating that alcohol or drugs were involved.
A wet reckless is a common charge reduction in DUI cases and shares some advantages with dry reckless. These advantages include the reduced stigma and the likelihood that the court will not suspend your driver’s license.
However, like a DUI, a wet reckless conviction is priorable. This means that it counts as a DUI for future offenses any time within ten years of the first offense.
Auto insurance companies also treat wet reckless convictions as a DUI offense. Therefore, you will likely have your insurance premiums increased or your policy canceled when you go for a renewal.
In most cases, the prosecution will offer wet reckless as a plea bargain, but you can still negotiate down to a dry reckless.
Should You Take a Plea Deal?
A plea deal often looks like a good idea considering the likelihood of a lesser charge or sentence. However, not all plea bargains are ideal for the defendant.
It is always advisable to have an experienced defense attorney working on your case so that they can provide advice on the best steps to take and the consequences of each.
For example, if the prosecution has strong enough evidence to convict you, then a plea deal is advisable if offered. However, if you have evidence that convincingly shows that you did not commit the offense, then it is best to go through a trial or negotiate with the prosecution to drop your charges.
Plea deals have both advantages and disadvantages that you must consider before accepting or denying the plea bargain. Some of the advantages include:
- A plea deal saves you time and expenses you would have incurred with a trial.
- You are certain of the sentence you will receive with a plea deal, unlike facing the trial uncertainties.
- You are more likely to avoid the maximum sentence for an offense by taking a plea deal.
- The plea deal could involve dropping some other charges that the prosecution had against you.
However, there are some drawbacks to taking a plea deal, including:
- You admit guilt for the offense by taking a plea deal, which is difficult for an innocent person to do
- The prosecution might fail to indicate the collateral consequences of pleading guilty to the charges, such as points on your driving record.
- You have fewer chances of appealing the conviction if you plead guilty through a plea bargain.
Before taking or denying a plea deal, you must understand that you have the right to choose what feels right for you. You do not have to accept the plea deal out of fear; make an informed decision by consulting with your attorney and discussing your options and possibilities.
You should be ready to compromise where necessary during the plea bargaining process, especially if the prosecution has solid evidence against you.
However, you should not interpret your willingness to compromise as admitting guilt to the prosecution. The prosecution seeks to punish you, not release you; therefore, you could provide the prosecution with the evidence they require to deny your plea deal and follow through with a conviction.
Expunging Your Record
You can expunge your record whether you are convicted for a DUI or a dry reckless as a charge reduction.
A conviction for a dry reckless offense stays on your DMV record for 13 years. This means that it could potentially affect your life, including seeking employment (especially if your driving records matter to your employer).
You are eligible for an expungement of your conviction if you complete probation or your jail sentence. You could apply for expungement even if you violated the terms of your probation.
You can work alone or consult your attorney for help with expunging your record. You must also pay the relevant fees for the process. Some of the advantages you have with expunging your record include:
- Employers cannot ask about your criminal record unless there is a conditional offer of employment.
- You do not have to disclose the conviction to employers or state licensing bodies.
- Employers cannot use an expunged conviction to deny you employment.
An expungement, however, will not overturn a license revocation or suspension.
Find a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
Navigating through the criminal process for a DUI offense can be overwhelming. You are not only facing a potential loss of freedom. Your driver's license and reputation are on the line as well.
DUI is an offense that carries stigma due to the traffic accident statistics caused by drunk driving. California also prosecutes the offense severely with each offense counting as a prior (meaning that the penalties for subsequent convictions increase for up to ten years of the first offense).
We understand the fear and confusion you might feel facing these charges, which is why we dedicate our knowledge, expertise, and resources to help you fight DUI charges. We do this by plea-bargaining the charge for a lesser offense, such as dry reckless, which has less stigma and consequences.
Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 310-502-1314 for a free consultation on your DUI case.