Charges for driving under the influence (DUI) can come with serious penalties including jail time, probation, and a license suspension. Reckless driving charges are often lower in seriousness and can be charged in a wide range of situations. In many cases, prosecutors in California use reckless driving as part of a plea agreement to reduce your charges, which can lower your fines and other penalties. For help with your DUI case and to see if your case can be pled down to “wet reckless” in CA, contact the Ventura drunk driving defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.
When Can You Plead to “Wet Reckless” Instead of DUI in California?
In many criminal cases, charges are ultimately reduced from what was initially charged. Prosecutors aim to see that justice is done, which often means they want to pursue charges aggressively. However, the time and expense of taking a criminal case to trial is quite a burden on taxpayers and the courts. Prosecutors will sometimes offer plea agreements that reduce or drop charges in exchange for a guilty plea that allows the prosecution to avoid trial. With DUI cases, this often means reducing DUI charges to “wet reckless” charges.
“Wet reckless” is the common name given to reckless driving charges that are used instead of DUI. Reckless driving under VC 23103 is the crime of driving “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This can apply to DUI cases, since driving while you are too intoxicated to safely operate a vehicle sometimes puts others in danger.
Many DUI charges come with reckless driving charges alongside them in the anticipation that the case will be resolved with a plea deal to wet reckless. However, you should never expect a plea agreement to be offered. Your attorney can discuss the case with the prosecutor and try to get you a plea agreement to reduce the DUI to wet reckless, but this does not always work.
Wet reckless pleas are often allowed in first-time DUI cases, since the penalties for reckless driving are far lower than the penalties for DUI. This plea may also be offered in cases where the driver’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is under the legal limit of .08% or was exceptionally low.
If there was injury or serious property damage, or if the you were charged with a felony DUI, the prosecution may refuse to offer a plea deal. Pleas to wet reckless are also uncommon for repeat DUI offenders.
The Difference Between Wet Reckless and DUI Charges for a Plea Deal
If you are given a plea deal that reduces your DUI to a wet reckless conviction, you will usually face different penalties.
The jail time for a drunk driving offense includes the potential of 48 hours in jail, or up to 6 months. This can be a harsh penalty, especially for first-time offenders. Reckless driving charges can include 5-90 days in jail as a penalty. While the minimum is higher, the maximum is far lower than the 6-month max for DUI charges. In the case of either offense, jail time is not mandatory, and the judge may not order jail time, especially if the reckless driving charges are part of a plea agreement.
The fine is also lower for wet reckless driving, compared to DUI. DUI fines can range from $390-$1,000, whereas reckless driving charges have a fine of $145-$1,000. Here, the maximum penalties might be the same, but the minimum is lowered. Other required fees and costs from DUI cases might also be lowered by taking a reckless driving plea.
The real benefit of reducing charges to wet reckless driving is to avoid certain penalties from DUI charges. DUI usually has an automatic license suspension and may have a mandatory requirement to install an ignition interlock in your car – which you have to pay for. These are both removed for reckless driving offenses. However, starting in 2019, ignition interlocks may still be used for wet reckless convictions.
In addition, a plea to reckless driving prevents a DUI from appearing on your record. When you apply for some jobs, especially jobs involving driving, your employer may request your driving record. If DUI offenses show on your record, you could be denied the job – but they may tolerate a reckless driving charge.
When looking at “prior offenses,” a reckless driving offense based on driving while intoxicated is noted on your criminal record. Wet reckless driving charges, as opposed to “dry reckless” driving charges that did not involve alcohol or drug DUI, can count as a prior DUI for sentencing purposes. That means that if you avoid a conviction for DUI, but are later charged with another DUI, that DUI will count as your second offense and carry increased penalties. Repeat DUI offenses only count if they occurred less than 10 years ago; older DUIs do not count as prior offenses.
Ventura Drunk Driving and Wet Reckless Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with drunk driving or reckless driving in Ventura, call the Ventura criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our attorneys offer free consultations on new charges. Our number is (805) 643-5555, or you can reach us online.