In a California DUI matter, you might have heard about someone pleading guilty to "wet reckless." You might wonder whether that means the defendant has been convicted of a DUI. The answer is "no." A DUI and a wet reckless are two separate offenses, with the latter being considered less serious than the former and offered as part of a plea agreement in the case. So what are the differences between the two offenses?

California's DUI and Wet Reckless Laws

A DUI is charged when a person is either driving while under the influence of drugs and or alcohol, or they are driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

Technically, a wet reckless isn't an offense someone can commit. It is actually a term used to describe the lesser charge a prosecutor will agree to as part of a DUI case. If the defendant agrees to plead guilty to wet reckless, the DUI charge will be dropped.

A wet reckless is really a reckless driving offense. A person commits reckless driving when they operate a vehicle on a public road with a "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property" (California Vehicle Code 23103 VC).

What differentiates a "wet reckless" from a "dry reckless" is simply a note the prosecution adds to the record. They must state that the offense involved the consumption of alcohol or the ingestion of a drug.

The Advantages of Accepting a Wet Reckless Plea

As mentioned earlier, a wet reckless charge is considered a lesser offense than a DUI. As such, the consequences of accepting such a plea are less severe than those that could result from a drinking and driving conviction.

A few of the advantages of accepting a wet reckless plea (as opposed to being convicted of a DUI include):

  • Potential lesser jail term: A wet reckless conviction can result in a jail sentence between 5 and 90 days. In contrast, a first-time DUI conviction could lead to a jail term between 96 hours and 6 months. Although the minimum incarceration period is longer for a wet reckless, the maximum is considerably shorter.
  • Potential lower fines: The fine for a wet reckless is between $145 and $1,000; for a DUI, it's between $390 and $1,000. The maximum fine amount may be the same, but after all other fees have been imposed for a DUI conviction, the total may be much less for a wet reckless.
  • No court-ordered driver's license suspension: A wet reckless conviction will not trigger a court-ordered driver's license suspension. However, a first-time DUI conviction can result in a loss of driving privileges for 6 months. But, that's not to say that a person who pleads guilty to wet reckless may not be subject to a driver's license suspension – we'll discuss that in more detail later.

The Disadvantages of Accepting a Wet Reckless Plea

Just as there are some advantages to accepting a wet reckless plea, there are also some disadvantages.

A few of the consequences include:

  • The conviction is a priorable offense: This means that if the defendant is charged with a subsequent DUI within 10 years of the wet reckless conviction, they will be considered a repeat offender. Thus, they will be subject to harsher penalties.
  • The DMV may impose a driver's license suspension: Although the court might not impose a driver's license suspension for a reckless driving conviction, the DMV can still impose one for the initial DUI arrest. That's because the administrative process begins immediately after the arrest and is separate from what happens in the criminal case.
  • The conviction will appear on the criminal record: A wet reckless may not show up as a DUI, but it can still be discovered by any person or agency conducting a background check on the individual.

Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Lawyer

If you've been charged with a DUI, deciding whether or not to accept a wet reckless plea agreement depends on your circumstances. At Koenig Law Office, we'll thoroughly review your situation to help determine how to proceed with your case.

Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (661) 793-7222 or contacting us online. We deliver aggressive defense in Bakersfield and the surrounding areas.