A driver facing DUI charges can make a plea bargain and request a lesser charge of a wet reckless in California. If you are charged with a DUI, and the prosecution discovers that the DUI charge is unfavorable, the prosecutor could allow you to take a plea bargain for a wet reckless. You can only qualify for a wet reckless plea upon committing a first DUI offense. There are slim chances that the prosecutor will offer a wet reckless plea to a second-time or subsequent DUI offender. There are no mandatory sentencing enhancements for a repeat offender if he or she is convicted of a wet reckless. You could escape an extended court-imposed license suspension, hefty fines, and mandatory jail time. If you are facing DUI charges, Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can help you negotiate with the court to reduce the charges to a wet reckless.
Difference Between DUI and Wet Reckless
Wet reckless is a plea bargain to charges like driving with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher VC 23152(b) or driving under the influence of alcohol VC 23152(a). According to DUI law VC 23152(a), it’s a crime to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. A driver could be charged under this statute even if their blood alcohol content is below 0.08%. Driving under the influence of alcohol means your mental and physical abilities are affected to the level that you cannot drive like a sober, cautious person. You could face misdemeanor charges for first, second, and third VC 23152(a) and VC 23152(b) offenses in California. A DUI offense has penalties like attending a DUI school, driver’s license suspension, fines, and misdemeanor probation.
The California DUI law VC 23152(b) makes it an offense for any driver to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or more. It’s also called California’s per se DUI law. Under this section, you are automatically guilty of DUI if you drive a BAC vehicle that exceeds the legal limit. You will face charges even if you don’t appear impaired by alcohol. The prosecutor only needs to prove that your BAC was above the legal limit of 0.08%.
The California VC 23103.5 allows the reduction of DUI charge to wet reckless. A wet reckless is another name for a reckless driving charge that includes a notation showing a drug or alcohol use. Wet reckless usually results from a DUI plea bargain. Compared to other reduced charges like an exhibition of speed and dry reckless driving, prosecutors prefer a wet reckless charge because it is considered a priorable crime. If convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol VC 23152(a) or VC 23152(b) BAC of 0.08, the prosecutor could consider offering you a wet reckless plea depending on several factors. A prosecutor is more likely to grant a wet reckless plea bargain in case of:
- Probable cause or issues with the traffic stop
- In case the testing officer waited for too long before conducting blood or breath testing. The prosecutor could have weak evidence if the testing officer took an insufficient blood sample.
- Evidence of arising blood alcohol level
- Minimal reckless driving conduct
- A blood alcohol content close to or at 0.08%
To avoid taking a weak case to trial, the prosecutor could reduce DUI charges to wet reckless charges in these circumstances. You could also opt to a plea bargain to avoid the stigma that a DUI conviction carries, collateral consequences, and the penalties.
How a Wet Reckless Differs from a Dry Reckless
The distinction between a dry reckless and a wet reckless arises if your criminal record indicates that drugs or alcohol influenced the crime. A dry reckless does not portray a drug or alcohol influence, unlike a wet reckless conviction. A dry reckless offense is similar to a regular reckless driving charge VC 23103.
On the other hand, wet reckless counts as a priorable crime. If you commit another crime of driving under drug or alcohol influence in ten years, you could face enhanced penalties.
Reduction of Your Charges to a Wet Reckless
To attain a wet reckless plea, you and the prosecutor must enter into a plea bargain for a wet reckless conviction. However, the plea deal must be approved by the court. You could choose to plead nolo contendere or plead guilty to a wet reckless crime. The court will do away with the DUI charges and notify the DMV of the offense. The California VC 23103.5 sets forth this procedure.
The suitability of a plea bargain to wet reckless charges is based on the facts of your case. The court will determine if you already have a wet reckless or DUI on your criminal record. The drug or alcohol-related driving crimes in California have a 10-year lookback period. The potential punishments for the new crime are enhanced each time you face a wet reckless or a DUI charge within ten years of committing the previous offense. This is why a wet reckless or a DUI is called a priorable crime.
Why a Wet Reckless Conviction is Better Than a DUI Conviction
The reduction of the charge from DUI to a wet reckless has the following advantages:
Short Sentence in a County Jail
A wet reckless sentence is ninety days maximum in county jail. A sentence for DUI amounts to six months or one year for a 2nd or 3rd crime. For a wet reckless conviction, you are likely to receive probation in place of jail time. While on probation, you have to abide by several conditions of probation. If you violate probation requirements, the court will hold a hearing to discuss the violation. The judge could revoke the probation and subject you to jail time if you violate probation terms.
Shorter Compulsory Jail Term If You Have Prior DUIs
Compared to DUI, a wet reckless charge has a lesser jail term. The shorter jail time mainly applies when you have one or more previous DUI or wet reckless crimes on your record. In determining prior offenses, wet reckless crime qualifies as a DUI. Repeat offenders are often subjected to a compulsory minimum jail term as follows:
- A minimum of ninety days in a county jail for a 2nd-time DUI
- A minimum of 120 days in a county jail for a 3rd-time DUI
A wet reckless crime has a minimum jail term of five days. Irrespective of the number of wet reckless or DUI priors you have, the five- day minimum jail term applies.
Friendly and Shorter Probation
Typically, a DUI charge in California carries a probation period of three to five years. A wet reckless charge, on the other hand, carries a probation of one year or two. Expunging a wet reckless or DUI conviction will only apply after you have completed probation. Therefore, shorter probation is advantageous because you can immediately seek your record expungement after completing probation. After expunging a previous conviction, the conviction will not appear on your background checks. Prospective employers and landlords will not discriminate against you based on your past conviction.
Compared to California’s DUI charges, wet reckless charges have lower fines. The maximum fine imposed on a California DUI or wet reckless is $1,000. DUI fines could escalate up to $3,000 if the DUI fine is added to penalty assessments imposed by the court. Therefore, a wet reckless fine is less than what you would pay for DUI.
No Compulsory License Suspension by the Court
A wet reckless charge does not have a compulsory driving license suspension by the court. This scenario is the opposite of a DUI charge. For a DUI offense, the DMV suspends the defendant’s driving license for six months when you commit a first-time DUI crime, two years for the second-time crime, or three years for a third-time crime. A one-year hard suspension could also be imposed on some DUI offenses. A driver could not get a restricted driver’s license to operate your vehicle to a DUI school or work in the case of a hard license suspension. A hard license suspension could be triggered by underage DUI or chemical test refusal charges. A wet reckless charge does not impose an automatic suspension on your driving license as a penalty for the crime. However, the court could order you to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for 3 to 6 months.
Even if the prosecutor reduces your charges, the DMV could administratively suspend your license after an arrest for DUI. To avoid losing your driving privileges, you must request a DMV hearing and prevail at the hearing. The administrative hearing is not automatic. You must request within ten days of your arrest.
The DMV would allow you to drive with an IID even if it suspends your license. The DMV often requires defendants to have an IID four months if it’s a first-time crime. If you commit a second crime, you have to install an IID for one year. It’s important to note that you will get two points on your driving record if you are charged with reckless driving. You could also become a negligent vehicle operator, and your license suspended if you accumulate a certain number of points.
Less Time in a California DUI School
A first wet reckless charge has a penalty of an alcohol and drug education program for six weeks. This period is shorter than a California DUI conviction penalty that carries a minimum 3-month DUI School program. If you have a prior DUI or wet conviction within the last ten years, your alcohol and drug education program for a wet reckless penalty could be enhanced to 9 months. This penalty period is still shorter than a DUI school’s 18 to 30-month penalty imposed on a second conviction for DUI within ten years.
Less Effect on Your Professional License
In California, a wet reckless charge has lower impacts on your professional license than a DUI charge. If a DUI charge is related to your job license, it can lead to a hearing to discuss whether you should retain your professional license. This can happen if you seek healthcare or another professional license or hold a veterinarian, pharmacist, nurse, or doctor’s license. If you lose a license after a DUI conviction, the California licensing board will investigate you. The board could take action if you don’t give a substantial justification of the circumstances leading to your conviction. A wet reckless conviction cannot trigger such consequences. However, you could still have to report your conviction to a licensing board and the DMV. In a wet reckless conviction, an attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce your charges and help you avoid a professional discipline.
If you are a professional accused of DUI, you need to consult a competent DUI attorney before entering a plea bargain or interacting with your licensing board.
No Compulsory Suspension of Your Commercial Driving License
A DUI charge could lead to a compulsory suspension of your commercial driving license, while a wet reckless charge will not. Your driving license can only be suspended on a wet reckless charge if the accumulated points on your DMV record place you above the allowable limit. Two points are added on a wet reckless charge if the driver had a Class C driver’s license and was in a regular vehicle. Under California VC 12810.5, the suspension of a Class C driving license happen if you accumulate the points as follows:
- Four points or more within 12 months
- Six points or more within 24 months
- Eight points or more within 36 months
No Compulsory Installation of IID
If you are facing repeat DUI convictions, the California law imposes a compulsory fitting of an IID in your vehicle. However, whether or not you install an IID will depend on the court’s discretion for a wet reckless conviction.
Wet Reckless Conviction Implications
Even if a wet reckless is a lesser offense than DUI, it also has some impacts. Some of the adverse consequences of a wet reckless conviction are:
- The wet reckless conviction will show up on background searches conducted by potential employers
- Vehicle insurers can likely treat it as a DUI
- It adds two points for negligent vehicle operation to your DMV record
- The California DMV can still suspend your driving license for a wet reckless conviction
- In a subsequent DUI case, it counts as a prior
Suspension of Your License by California DMV
In California, a wet reckless charge is not a criminal penalty, and it cannot cause a compulsory suspension of your license by the court. However, your driving license could be administratively suspended by the DMV for a wet reckless offense. In case this happens, you would have to request a California’s DMV hearing before a lapse of ten days from your arrest. Additionally, you must prevail at the hearing to retain your driver’s license. Before any legal settlement is made in a DUI offense, a DMV hearing has to occur. If the DMV hearing delays, your attorney will have ample time to persuade the prosecutor to reduce your charges and give a plea bargain.
If the Department of Motor Vehicles suspends your license, the IID installation will allow you to continue operating your vehicle legally. A wet reckless could help you persuade the DMV officer to reduce your charges since the plea bargain does not bind the DMV. However, this might not be possible if you refuse a DUI blood or breath test, or the defendant is below 21 years.
It Counts as a DUI Prior
In California, wet reckless is a priorable crime. If you are charged with a DUI within ten years of a wet reckless charge, it counts as a DUI prior crime. You could, therefore, face enhanced punishment as a repeat offender.
The Likelihood of Getting a Plea Bargain in DUI Charges
The court can reduce your DUI charge to a wet reckless charge when:
- The prosecution case is weak
- You don’t have a notable alcohol-related crime or drug history
- Your (BAC) was under 0.08%
You could be arrested and charged with a DUI offense under VC 23152(b) for operating a vehicle with a high BAC. In this case, your attorney could negotiate a plea bargain if:
- You have a clean driving record
- You were cooperative and polite during your DUI investigation
- You don’t have previous DUIs or another criminal history
If you are a repeat offender for a wet reckless crime, political pressure could deny you a plea offer from the prosecutor. However, political pressure can be overturned if there are weaknesses or lapses in the prosecutor’s case. The weaknesses could include unique mitigating circumstances or procedural shortcomings in the DUI investigation or arrest.
It’s worth noting that a wet reckless charge is not a guarantee in every DUI charge. Your attorney must bargain for this benefit.
Find a Defense Attorney Near Me
After an arrest for a DUI, it does not mean that you will be convicted of this crime. With a strong legal defense and proper planning, this charge could be dismissed or reduced to a wet reckless charge. To receive a wet reckless plea bargain, you need to act fast. You also need to work with a competent attorney who understands California DUI laws fully. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have experienced attorneys who can help you create the best defense against your charges. Contact us at 310-502-1314 and speak to one of our attorneys today.