In California, reckless driving charges and charges for driving under the influence (DUI) often come hand in hand. These crimes are often charged together because it is common practice in California to “plead down” many DUI charges to reckless driving charges, which often have lower penalties. If you are facing reckless driving or DUI charges in California, talk to an attorney today about the potential penalties. The Ventura DUI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain some of the penalties for these two charges and how they compare.

What’s the Difference Between DUI and Wet Reckless Charges in California?

Before understanding the penalties for these charges, it is important to understand the differences between the charges themselves. DUI charges are charges for drunk driving, which means they only apply if you had enough alcohol in your blood to make your driving unsafe because of intoxication. On the other hand, reckless driving punishes unsafe driving, whether or not the driver is intoxicated. This means you could face charges for either or both offenses – but charges for reckless driving are often used in place of DUI charges for “wet reckless” pleas.

DUI is charged under VC 23152. This statute has a few subsections, each of which covers a different type of driving under the influence. The first subsection deals with driving while intoxicated in general, even if the government has no proof of your BAC (blood alcohol concentration). The second subsection deals with driving with a BAC over .08%. This cutoff makes it a crime regardless of how well or how safely you can drive with a BAC that high. A later subsection deals with driving under the influence of drugs – and another subsection deals with DUI for a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Under DUI law, you may still be charged and prosecuted even if your driving was somewhat safe. Police usually will have no reason to pull you over or stop you if they do not witness other traffic violations, but even if you are driving safely with too much alcohol in your system, you can still face DUI charges.

This is where reckless driving is separate. Reckless driving under VC 23103 makes it illegal to drive “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” While you may be driving “safely” enough while under the effects of alcohol, you can still face DUI charges. If you are driving unsafely, you may face reckless driving charges. These can apply whether you are drunk or not – which is usually known as “wet reckless” driving as opposed to “dry reckless” driving.

How Are Penalties Different for Wet Reckless Driving and Drunk Driving?

Drunk driving can carry serious penalties. In most cases, the penalties for reckless driving are lower, and many people accused of DUI are able to plead guilty to wet reckless instead of facing DUI charges. Because reckless driving is a lighter charge, this is often a good plea deal.

Reckless driving in California carries 5-90 days in jail and a fine of $145-$1,000. While these penalties seem steep, they are lower than many DUI penalties. While the jail time has a mandatory minimum of 5 days, the jail time is optional, and judges will not always sentence you to jail time.

Reckless driving will also usually result in 2 points on your license. Accumulating 4 points in a 12-month period will result in a license suspension. For teen drivers, your license is suspended after 3 points and restricted after 2 points. Commercial drivers may face additional points for traffic offenses.

DUI carries much stricter penalties in most cases. Penalties are upgraded for repeat offenses, and the court counts both DUI convictions and wet reckless convictions as “prior DUIs” if they took place in the past 10 years.

A first-time DUI in California can result in penalties including up to $1,000 in fines, plus other costs and fees. You can also receive between 48 hours and 6 months in jail. While this might have a lower minimum than reckless driving, the maximum is far higher. Your driver’s license is also automatically suspended for 1 year, which is not a penalty for reckless driving.

After receiving a DUI, you may be placed on probation. This can include check-ins and supervision to ensure that you complete alcohol and driving courses to help prevent future DUIs. While on DUI probation, you may also face a lower threshold for BAC, which lowers the legal limit to .01% for you.

Depending on where you committed the DUI, you may also be made to use an ignition interlock. This requires you to have a device installed in your car that prevents your car from starting unless it accepts a clean breath test. Circumventing this device or driving another car can result in additional charges. Starting in 2019, this may also become a requirement for wet reckless convictions as well.

Ventura DUI Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations

If you or a loved one was charged with DUI or reckless driving, talk to a Ventura criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our lawyers may be able to help you fight your charges or get DUI charges reduced to wet reckless driving. For help with your case, contact our law offices online today or call us at (805) 643-5555 to schedule a free consultation.