Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer is a highly rated and experienced DUI defense law firm that serves clients in and around the Orange County area. The attorneys for the firm have in-depth experience in California DUI law and can provide aggressive defense for all types of DUI and wet reckless charges for their clients. Many aspects need to be considered before pleading guilty to a reduced wet reckless driving offense. A skilled DUI defense attorney can help reduce the client's penalties and a potential jail sentence. An experienced attorney can also help decide whether lowering the charge to DUI wet reckless plea bargain is the best option based on the particulars of your case.

What is "Wet" Reckless Under California Law?

Anyone who has ever faced a DUI charge for reckless driving in California must have heard about a term called “wet reckless." Wet Reckless is typically a nickname given to a common DUI charge reduction for a charge of reckless driving involving alcohol and/or drugs. It can be referred to as a plea bargain charge of violating California Vehicle Code Section 23103, according to 23103.5 VC. For some defendant drivers charged with DUI conviction, the prosecution may consider resolving the case by allowing the driver to plead to a reduced DUI charge—wet reckless. Possible instances could be a relatively low BAC limit of the driver or a problem of proof. Most DUI convictions can be resolved if a defendant pleads down a bargain, and in most cases, the preferred choice to a conviction of driving under the influence.

Although wet reckless is a lesser charge to driving under the influence with generally less severe penalties, there could still be potential consequences of a wet reckless conviction, since it counts as a “priorable” offense. A wet reckless driving conviction comes with a notation on the defendant’s criminal record indicating the offense encompassed alcohol and/or drug use. In spite of all this, a wet reckless would look better on your driving record as compared to a DUI. When looking for a new job or having a job where a DUI may prohibit you from specific certifications or clearances, a wet reckless with a typically smaller probation period is more likely to qualify for expungement under Cal PC 1203.4. Wet reckless has a lot of other advantages that will be discussed later in the sections below. Before getting on to that, let’s explore the key differences between a DUI conviction and that of a wet reckless.

Understanding the Difference between DUI and Wet Reckless

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offense in California and has severe repercussions even for a first DUI conviction. In California, the standard BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limit is 0.08%, and if your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you’re not legally allowed to drive. If you have a commercial driving license in California, the legal BAC limit is 0.04%. For Californians who are below the age of 21, the BAC level is 0.02%.

The consequences of a DUI conviction may include suspension of driving license for six months, 48 hours to six months in jail, a hefty fine between $390 and $1,000, a three to five year probation term and more. On the other hand, a conviction for wet reckless is not a serious charge and can be levied under certain conditions, such as your inability to clear the sobriety test, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) being just lower than the permitted limit of 0.08 or higher, or slurred speech. In all such cases, a wet reckless charge may come into play.

If you get pulled over in California and charged with a DUI, you must contact an attorney who can help you get a wet reckless plea bargain. The law enforcement officer won't charge you for a wet reckless; in fact, it's a charge used exclusively by the prosecutors in which you'll be asked to plead guilty or "no contest" to reckless driving in order to avoid the court trial. For DUI defendants in California, the prosecuting attorney may offer a plea bargain, which results in lesser expenses and fewer penalties than a DUI conviction.

Benefits of Wet Reckless over DUI Conviction

  • No installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) required.
  • No mandatory suspension of the driving license.
  • Mandatory fines may be lowered.
  • A shorter probation period around 1-2 years, unlike a DUI for 3-5 years
  • In the record, your name will be registered against the wet reckless conviction, which is far better than a DUI conviction.
  • If your job entails driving, you may continue your job in a wet reckless case, which is not possible in case of a DUI conviction.
  • Lesser duration of DUI school required.

Disadvantages of Wet Reckless over DUI Conviction

  • Like a DUI, a wet reckless is a misdemeanor, but for a subsequent DUI, you will be punished as a second-time offender and not as a first-time offender.
  • You will be asked to submit a DNA sample by the Orange County law enforcement officer if the case is reduced to a wet reckless from a DUI.
  • In a wet reckless, the district attorney wants the probation period and other penalties, such as fine to be the same as a DUI.
  • A wet reckless case will be on the record of the DMV for ten (10) years, and the insurance companies will treat you just like a DUI convict. Thus, you won't be able to save big on your car insurance premiums even by offering a plea bargain.

Since a conviction for wet reckless is reported to the DMV, it has the authority to suspend your driving license either if you had a BAC level of above 0.08% or lose your DMV hearing—even if the court hasn't suspended your license for driving under the influence. DMV is a separate department for an administrative hearing, and if your BAC is above the limit of 0.08% or you lose in the DMV hearing, your driving license could be suspended for a period as long as four months. DMV treats it in the same manner as a DUI. Although a wet reckless conviction does not require SR-22 insurance, you will need this during a DMV administrative hearing. SR-22 insurance will be required by the DMV to reinstate your driving privileges.

Wet Reckless – A Misdemeanor or Felony?

A wet reckless generally comes under the category of a misdemeanor. However, if you are among the repeat offenders and get arrested by an officer for the fourth time, you will qualify for a felony. The conviction for a felony is more stringent, and you can't escape from hefty fines, mandatory jail time, and license suspension for a longer duration of time. You may also have to be present before the court for several court proceedings.

The thing important to note here is that if you’re charged with a wet reckless for the third time, but the last two convictions did not entail any public property damage or injury to any person, your wet reckless conviction will not qualify for a felony. The level of severity of your last two wet reckless convictions will come into play in deciding whether your current case will be eligible for a felony or not.

What Are Your Chances of Being Offered a Plea of Wet Reckless?

It is generally seen that prosecutors offer a wet reckless only in those cases where the evidence is not strong enough to prove the charge, the key witness testimony is not available, or the presence of significant mitigating circumstances such as:

  • If you don’t have any prior criminal record
  • If you are a first time DUI offender
  • If you show a non-aggressive and positive attitude towards the law enforcement officer
  • If you BAC was at or very close to the legal limit of 0.08%

For example, John is charged with a DUI under Cal VC 23152(b) after being caught for driving with a BAC level of 0.09%. A good DUI defense attorney can negotiate a charge reduction down to wet reckless for John. The prosecution may agree to offer a wet reckless plea bargain to the defendant John if he has no significant criminal or DUI record on his driving history or if he behaves cooperatively and politely with the California Highway Patrol during his DUI investigation.

However, on the contrary, the presence of aggravating factors diminishes your likelihood of getting a wet reckless plea deal. For instance, if your DUI case involves severe accidents and injuries, the prosecution will most likely be unwilling to reduce your DUI charges. It is important to note that by no means wet reckless is a guarantee in every DUI case. It must be bargained for and in most cases, offered only after your first DUI offense. For repeat offenders, being able to get a wet reckless from a plea bargain would be highly beneficial.

Penalties for a Wet Reckless Offense as Compared to DUI in California

Unlike a DUI conviction, the penalties that go along with a wet reckless are generally less severe. Typically, both are considered as misdemeanor convictions, pleading guilty to a reduced charge for driving under the influence can also reduce the penalties and have less stigma than that accompany a DUI conviction. Compared to a DUI conviction in which even the first-time offender has to pay a minimum fine of $390 in addition to penalty assessments, in a wet reckless, there is no mandatory fine. A wet reckless charge reduction generally has a shorter (not mandatory) jail sentence, potentially less impact on a professional driving license, and no compulsory installation of an IID (ignition interlock device). Additionally, mandatory DUI class participation duration is quite less. You may have to spend only a couple of months, unlike several months or years in a DUI case. However, you can’t refrain from attending the mandatory driving under the influence (DUI) program ordered by the court.

Whether a wet reckless plea bargain is a good idea for you will depend on the particular circumstances of the case. One such circumstance is whether you already have a DUI conviction or conviction of wet reckless on your driving record. For alcohol and/or drug-related driving offenses, the state of California considers a look-back period of ten (10) years. Your potential penalties will increase for every new wet reckless "priorable" driving offense during the most recent ten-year period.

How is Wet Reckless Better Than DUI Conviction?

Though both the offenses come with a set of penalties, in a wet reckless, the offender gets a lighter sentence. Listed below are some of the ways, which show that a conviction for a wet reckless is better than a DUI.

  • Treatment Programs and Counseling: If you are found guilty for a DUI in California, you would be required to attend the alcohol counseling courses. The duration of this program is given below:
    • DUI: 3 months minimum for a 1st offense; 18 months for 2nd and subsequent.
    • Wet Reckless: 6 weeks for a 1st offense; 9 months for 2nd and later on.
  • Mandatory Minimum Sentence: If you get arrested for a DUI in California, you'll have to face a minimum sentence, particularly if it's your 2nd or 3rd DUI. However, you can reduce your mandatory minimum sentence by offering a plea bargain for a DUI reduced to a wet reckless.
    • DUI: A minimum sentence for 90 days for a 2nd offense; 120 days for 3rd offense.
    • Wet Reckless: A minimum sentence for 5 days.  
  • Jail Time: Both wet reckless and DUI carry jail time, but the sentence for a wet reckless conviction is considerably less than a DUI.
    • DUI: For a 1st offense, you could be sentenced for 6 months in the county jail, but there is no mandatory jail time. For a 2nd offense, you could be punished for 1 year.
    • Wet Reckless: It carries significantly less jail time than a DUI. A maximum sentence for 90 days, if you breach your probation.
  • License Revocation: When you are charged with a DUI by the law personnel, you'll probably lose the driving privilege for a certain time. However, this is not the case with wet reckless.
    • DUI: For a 1st offense, 6 months revocation. For the second time, 2 years revocation and this subsequently gets increased, if you are a repeat offender.
    • Wet Reckless: No automatic revocation.
  • IID/BAIID Installation: For a DUI convict in California, it becomes important to install the ignition interlock device (IID) or breath alcohol ignition interlock (BAIID) device for the restoration of their driving license. This breathalyzer won't let you start your vehicle engine until you provide a valid breath sample that meets the prescribed BAC limit. On the other hand, a wet reckless convict doesn’t face the same consequence.
  • Fines and penalties: You may face excessive financial costs if you have been convicted for a DUI in California. The minimum financial burden that you may have to bear for a DUI case is around $45,435 with things like DMV reinstatement fees, attorney fees, fines, car impoundment, DUI classes, and other penalties. While, in a wet reckless case, you can easily sideline many of these fines and penalties. 

Other Possible Plea Options for a DUI Conviction

Wet reckless is the first and most common DUI charge reduction the prosecution will consider if a defendant agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” to a criminal charge and seeks some form of leniency from the prosecution. However, there are many other possible DUI charge reductions available that the prosecuting attorney agree upon

Dry reckless. Under the California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC, a dry reckless is a misdemeanor conviction, referring to reckless driving a vehicle without any alcohol involved. Although a person convicted of a dry reckless is also likely to add points of a defendant’s DMV driving record, a dry reckless plea bargain doesn’t include a note that references an offense with alcohol and/or drugs involved. Also, a dry reckless conviction may not have the same effect on car insurance premiums as a wet reckless or DUI conviction. An experienced lawyer with the art of negotiating can convince the prosecution to reach a favorable plea bargain and reduce your DUI conviction to a dry reckless.

Drunk in public. In California, public intoxication (drunk in public) is a misdemeanor conviction with possible jail time and a small fine, but not a driving-related crime, unless you are willfully intoxicated to such an extent that you start obstructing, interfering or preventing others from using sidewalks, streets or other public ways. It is typically agreed as a plea bargain when the prosecution has a weak case. A good attorney can help you get a reduced DUI conviction by stating that you didn't indulge in any activity that could potentially harm any person, place, or property.

Exhibition of speed. Under the California Vehicle Code 23109(c) VC, the reduced DUI charge referred as the exhibition of speed—sometimes also referred as "speed ex" or "speed contest"—is used as a plea bargain for a DUI reduction charge in cases where the prosecution believes their case is relatively weak. This is only applicable when there is no consumption of drugs, alcoholic drinks, or any other chemicals. Mostly, there is no jail time, but only a probation period and fines that are much lower than a wet reckless or DUI offense.

Drinking alcohol in a vehicle. Consumption of alcohol in a car on a public street is a criminal offense for a driver or passenger in California. However, in some cases, a DUI charge may be plea bargained to a charge of drinking alcohol in a vehicle, generally, if the defendant driver DUI blood/breath test report shows a BAC level at par or just above the limit. It is considered a non-criminal violation with generally a small fine as penalty.

Wet reckless is one of the most common plea bargains offered to a DUI convict. However, the pleas, as mentioned above, can be more beneficial as compared to a so-called wet reckless plea bargain, since they aren’t considered as prior offenses. If you are arrested for a DUI charge in the future, they won't contribute to increasing your penalties. So, it becomes all the more critical to hire an expert attorney who is proficient in the art of negotiating with prosecution and reach a favorable plea bargain option that is best suited for your DUI case.  

Can Your Wet Reckless Case Be Expunged?

Yes. In accordance with Penal Code Section 1203.4, your wet reckless case can be expunged under certain conditions. An expungement may be granted if there are no more pending criminal charges against you or you have successfully completed all probation conditions. Once you get a wet reckless expunged, you can confidently say to any of the potential employers that you've never been charged with a DUI or wet reckless conviction. Also, when a person or company performs a criminal background check on you, your conviction will never be revealed.

Find a DUI Defense Lawyer Specializing in Wet Reckless Plea Bargains Near Me

Any DUI conviction on your record can pose problems in different aspects of your personal and professional life. If you or your loved one has been arrested or charged with a DUI conviction, you must seek legal consultation from a renowned and experienced DUI defense law firm like the Orange County DUI defense law firm. Our team of skilled and experienced attorneys handle each case with the carefulness and uniqueness it deserves and ensures that their clients feel confident throughout the trial.  We provide best-in-class defense services to our clients and help them move forward from their difficult time. Our years of experience in DUI defense practice have enabled us to become familiar with not only the criminal laws but also with the judges, prosecutors, and other court personnel in and around Orange County. Give our Orange County DUI Lawyer a call at 714-820-9592 and discuss your case with one of our legal experts today. We promise you that we'll be your pillar of strength during this hard time!