“Wet Reckless” Charge vs. DUI: What Are the Key Differences?

wet-recklessIf you’ve ever been arrested for DUI, or if you know someone who has, you have possibly heard the term “wet reckless” thrown around. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the prosecution may offer to allow a DUI defendant to plead guilty to “wet reckless” as a reduced charge. If you are offered this kind of plea deal and agree to the terms, accepting it can provide you more leniency compared to a DUI conviction, but there are still some nuances in the law and some consequences you need to be aware of. Let’s discuss some of the key differences between a “wet reckless” charge and a DUI charge to help defendants make an informed decision in the event of a plea deal.

What Is a “Wet Reckless” Charge?

“Wet reckless” is simply a colloquial term for reducing a DUI charge to a reckless driving charge under California Vehicle Code Section 23103/23103.5 VC, with the additional note on the defendant’s record that alcohol was involved. (Hence the term “wet reckless.”) The unique thing about a wet reckless charge is that it only occurs in a plea deal situation, as a reduction down from DUI. In other words, prosecutors would never charge a defendant initially for “wet reckless driving” because technically it’s the same offense as reckless driving. You’ll only have a “wet reckless” charge on you record if you accept a plea deal in response to a DUI and agree to plead guilty or nolo contendere to the lesser charge.

When Is “Wet Reckless” Considered as a Reduced Charge?

Prosecutors generally offer a plea deal for the “wet reckless” reduction in circumstances where they feel their case against you is weak in some way. For example, if your Blood Alcohol Content was at or barely over the limit, and if you exhibited limited signs of impairment at the scene, it could be argued that your BAC reading could have been false, inaccurate or within the margin of error. If prosecutors see difficulty in proving your guilt outright with DUI, they may offer the “wet reckless” plea bargain as an alternative. Likewise, a skilled defense attorney may be able to convince prosecutors and a judge of the merits of a “wet reckless” plea deal, especially for first-time offenders with a marginal BAC reading.

Primary Differences between “Wet Reckless” and DUI

The most notable difference between these charges is that by law, “wet reckless” driving is not DUI. It’s not even a lesser form of DUI, not even in the same category; it is reckless driving, which means the penalties may be considerably less severe than if you were convicted of DUI. For example:

• No mandatory license suspension. You may still be able to drive to work, which may protect your job.
• No mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
• Less jail time (or none at all). (Wet reckless driving may carry a jail sentence of up to 90 days, but it is not mandatory. By comparison, first-time DUI can result in up to 6 months in jail.)
• Lower fines (or none at all). DUI carries a minimum fine; reckless driving does not.
• Shorter probation periods.
• No DUI on your criminal record. This benefit alone could save your existing job or keep you from being disqualified for other jobs.

Consequences of a “Wet Reckless” Conviction

While a reduced “wet reckless” charge certainly offers advantages compared to a DUI conviction, neither is it merely a “slap on the wrist.” It is still a conviction, which means there may be penalties and consequences, though considerably less than a DUI. Here’s what you can expect if you take a plea deal for a “wet reckless” conviction:

• You will still have a criminal record. Reckless driving is not as prohibitive as a DUI, but it still shows up.
• You may still face penalties like fines, probation and jail time. Depending on factors like the circumstances of your arrest and the leniency of the judge, you may face minimal penalties, or you may face the maximum penalties for reckless driving allowable by law. Either way, you should be prepared.
• You’ll have two points added to your driving record. These points may affect your auto insurance rates, and in some cases even cause cancellation of your policy.

A “Priorable Offense”

One of the most important aspects to take into account with a “wet reckless” plea agreement is that this lesser charge still classifies as a “priorable offense,” which means it can work against you if you are arrested for DUI in the future. With “wet reckless,” a note appears on your record that alcohol was involved in your act of reckless driving (without making a determination as to BAC). This note doesn’t make your reckless driving conviction more severe, but if in the next ten years you are convicted for another driving offense involving alcohol or drugs, the “wet reckless” charge will be categorized as a “prior offense,” potentially enhancing your penalties for a future DUI.

Should You Accept a Plea Bargain for “Wet Reckless” Driving?

The answer to this question varies according to each case. The key factor to remember is that pleading guilty to any reduced charge will definitely put a mark on your criminal record, while if you are acquitted for a DUI, your record stays clean. You must consider with your attorney whether the odds of acquittal are in your favor based on the strength of the prosecution’s case. Your attorney will discuss the specific advantages and disadvantages to help you decide whether to take any deal. If you have been arrested for DUI, we can help you evaluate your options. Call our offices today for a free case evaluation.

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