If you have been charged with a DUI, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. Fortunately, there is a possible plea bargain available to you that may reduce the severity of your charges: the wet reckless plea. Wet reckless is a lesser charge than a DUI and can result in reduced penalties and a shorter license suspension period, among other advantages.
A wet reckless plea must be agreed upon by the prosecutor and you or your defense team. As we will discuss in this article, there are situations that will serve your best interest if you enter a wet reckless plea. On the other hand, you might just have to proceed with your DUI case in other situations. We at Koenig Law Office can evaluate your case and advise you on whether a wet reckless bargain is the best course of action. We have successfully defended people facing DUI charges in Bakersfield, so you can trust us to handle your case expertly.
Understanding Wet Reckless as a Plea Bargain
California Vehicle Code 23103.5 authorizes the reduction of DUI charges into wet reckless charges. The common charges that can be reduced to wet reckless are driving under the influence (VEH 23152(a)) and driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher (VEH 23152(b)).
Note that you cannot be arrested for wet reckless. Entering a wet reckless plea means that you are agreeing to reckless driving, and there will be a note indicating there was drug and/or alcohol use.
What is the Difference between Wet and Dry Reckless?
Wet reckless is a plea bargain that acknowledges that the driver was driving recklessly but without the high level of impairment associated with a DUI. On the other hand, a "dry reckless" is a plea bargain for reckless driving without any alcohol or drugs involved. It is a charge of reckless driving without the additional charge of DUI.
In fact, dry reckless is just another name for reckless driving under VEH 23103. The only difference with regular reckless driving is that dry reckless results from a DUI plea bargain.
Another key difference is that a wet reckless offense is “priorable” while dry reckless is not. This means that the charge will show up on your criminal record within ten years. As a result, you will face increased penalties if you are subsequently convicted for wet reckless, DUI, or DUI-related charge within the next ten years.
The Involved Parties
The parties involved in a "wet reckless" plea under California Vehicle Code section 23103.5 are the defendant (the person accused of the DUI), the prosecutor (the attorney representing the government), and the court.
If the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a charge of reckless driving involving alcohol, the prosecutor may agree to reduce the DUI charge to a "wet reckless" charge. This typically happens during the pre-trial phase of a DUI case, before the case goes to trial.
Thereafter, the wet reckless plea agreement is made in court and must be approved by a judge. If the judge approves the plea bargain, the defendant will be sentenced accordingly.
Note that the prosecutor is not required to offer a wet reckless plea bargain and it is up to their discretion. Additionally, the court may choose not to approve the plea bargain if they believe it is not in the best interest of justice. As we will discuss further below, this plea bargain is often only offered in cases where there is some uncertainty regarding the strength of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant has no prior DUI convictions, and the defendant's BAC was below 0.08%.
Note that even if your BAC is above but close to 0.08%, you might still successfully negotiate a wet reckless plea bargain — for instance, you might have acted politely and cooperatively during the arrest, which might help bargain for this reduction.
What are The Chances of Getting a DUI Wet Reckless Offer?
Many prosecutors may be more willing to offer a "wet reckless" plea bargain if they have a weak case against the defendant. However, there is no definitive list of factors that determine whether a prosecutor has a weak case or not, as every case is different and unique.
Here are factors that could potentially indicate a weak case:
- Lack of evidence — If the prosecutor has a weak case, it could be because they lack sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was driving under the influence. For example, if the arresting officer did not properly administer a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test, the prosecutor may have a weaker case.
- Inconsistencies in evidence — If there are inconsistencies in the evidence presented against the defendant, it could weaken the prosecutor's case. For example, if the results of a breathalyzer test were inaccurate or the officer's report contains inconsistencies or errors, the prosecutor's case could be weakened.
- Issues with the arrest — If there were issues with the way the defendant was arrested, such as an unlawful stop or search, this could signal a weak case.
- Mitigating factors — If the defendant has no prior criminal record, cooperated with the police, and showed remorse for their actions, this could be seen as a mitigating factor and potentially lead to a weaker case for the prosecutor.
In short, you have a high chance of getting a plea offer if the prosecutor believes their DUI case is weak.
Should You Accept the Offer?
When deciding whether to accept a plea offer from the prosecutor in a DUI case, you should carefully consider several factors. The strength of the evidence against you is an important consideration. If the evidence is weak, it may be more beneficial to accept a plea offer rather than risk a conviction at trial.
You should also consider the potential penalties of a conviction. A plea offer may result in lesser penalties than those that could be imposed if convicted at trial. Your prior criminal record, if any, can also be a factor in plea negotiations. A plea offer may be more favorable if you have no prior convictions.
Additionally, your trial strategy should be considered when deciding whether to accept a plea offer. If you believe you have a strong case and a good chance of winning at trial, it may be more beneficial to reject a plea offer and proceed to trial.
Every case is unique, and the decision of whether to accept a plea offer should be made with the guidance of an experienced DUI defense attorney. An attorney can assess the strength of the evidence, advise on the potential penalties, and develop a trial strategy to help you make an informed decision.
Advantages of Wet Reckless as a Plea Bargain
Here are some benefits of a wet reckless plea.
A Shorter Sentence
A first-time DUI conviction can result in up to six months in jail, while a wet reckless conviction carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. The jail term can increase to up to a year in county jail for repeat DUI offenders.
Reduced Mandatory Sentence for Repeat DUI Offense
A reduced mandatory sentence is one of the most significant advantages of a wet reckless plea bargain, especially for repeat DUI offenders. In California, for a second DUI conviction within ten years, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is 90 days, while a third DUI offense within ten years carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 120 days. In contrast, a wet reckless conviction carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of only 5 days.
This means that if you are facing a second or third DUI offense and the prosecutor offers a wet reckless plea bargain, accepting the offer could mean avoiding the mandatory minimum jail sentences associated with a DUI conviction. The minimum wet reckless sentence applies regardless of the number of prior wet reckless or DUI convictions.
A wet reckless conviction can result in lower total fines compared to a California DUI conviction. While the theoretical maximum fine for both a wet reckless and a DUI is $1,000, additional court-imposed "penalty assessments" for a DUI can raise the total fines up to $3,000. As a result, fines for a wet reckless conviction are typically around half of what they would be for a DUI.
Reduced Probation Term
While a DUI conviction can result in a probation term of 3-5 years, a wet reckless conviction may only carry a probation term of 1-2 years. This shorter probation period can be beneficial for individuals who want to move on from their criminal case as quickly as possible, as it means they will be under court supervision for a shorter period of time.
During probation, you may be required to attend an alcohol or drug education program, participate in community service, pay fines and restitution, and avoid any further criminal activity. You may also be required to submit to drug or alcohol testing and attend counseling or treatment programs. Failure to comply with the terms of probation can result in additional penalties and consequences, including jail time or the revocation of probation.
In addition, a shorter probation period can also make it easier to obtain an expungement of your criminal record. An expungement allows you to have your conviction dismissed or set aside, which can be important for individuals who are looking for employment. Many employers conduct criminal background checks on potential hires, and having a DUI conviction on your record can be a major barrier to employment.
If you are able to obtain an expungement of your DUI conviction, it can significantly improve your job prospects. With a wet reckless conviction, the shorter probation period means that you may be eligible for an expungement sooner, allowing you to start applying for jobs without the stigma of a DUI conviction on your record. This can be especially important if you work in a field that requires a clean criminal record, such as education, healthcare, or law enforcement.
Shorter Period at DUI School
If convicted of a first-time "wet reckless" offense, you will typically be required to attend a six-week alcohol education program as part of your penalty. However, this program is shorter than the minimum education program of three months for a DUI conviction.
If you have a prior DUI or wet reckless conviction within ten years, the education program will last for nine months. Even with this increase, it is still significantly shorter than the 18 to 30 months of DUI school required for a second DUI.
You May Retain Your License
There is no mandatory license suspension for a wet reckless conviction under California law, whereas a DUI conviction carries a minimum license suspension of 6 months for a first-time offense, 2 years for a second-time offense, and 3 years for a third-time offense.
Moreover, some DUI convictions can result in the defendant being unable to obtain a restricted license. For example, if the DUI offender is under the age of 21, they may not be eligible for a restricted license. This can severely impact their ability to get around, especially if they rely on driving for work or other essential activities.
While a wet reckless conviction does not trigger an automatic driver’s license suspension, the judge might require you to install an ignition interlock device for up to six months. Also, the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend your driving privilege regardless of the court’s decision. To avoid this, you must request a DMV administrative hearing within 10 days, where the hearing officer will decide on whether to suspend your license (but you might still be allowed to drive using an IID).
Furthermore, the DMV may add a minimum of two points to your driving record. Your license will then be suspended if you accumulate a certain number of points on your driving record.
A DUI conviction is often viewed as a serious offense and can carry a significant social stigma. Many people view drunk driving as a selfish and dangerous act that endangers the lives of others on the road.
In contrast, a wet reckless conviction is generally seen as a lesser offense than a DUI. It suggests that the defendant was not as impaired as someone who would be charged with a DUI. This can result in fewer negative perceptions from others, which can be especially important in professional or personal relationships.
Ignition Interlock Device Installation is Not a Must
California mandates repeat DUI offenders to install an IID in any vehicle that they own or operate. This can be expensive and can be a major inconvenience for individuals who rely on their vehicles for work, school, or other important activities.
For a wet reckless conviction, the court may or may not require the installation of an IID. This decision is typically left up to the judge's discretion and may depend on factors such as the specific circumstances of the offense and the defendant's criminal history. While some judges may require an IID for a wet reckless conviction, others may not, which can be a significant advantage for individuals who wish to avoid the expense and inconvenience of an IID.
Disadvantages of Wet Reckless as a Plea Bargain
While wet reckless offers several advantages over a DUI conviction, there are also some disadvantages that you should consider before accepting a plea bargain.
Can Affect Your Criminal Record
Even though a wet reckless charge is not considered as serious as a DUI, it is still a criminal offense and will appear on your criminal record. This means that it may show up on background checks and could affect your employment prospects, particularly for jobs that require a clean criminal record.
It is a “Priorable” Offense
If you are charged with a subsequent DUI offense within ten years of a wet reckless conviction, the wet reckless will be considered a prior DUI conviction. This could lead to increased penalties and longer jail sentences for any subsequent DUI offenses.
Additional Costs Might be Incurred
Even though the fines for a wet reckless charge are generally lower than those for a DUI, there are still fines involved — for instance, the cost of hiring a lawyer to negotiate a plea bargain can be high. You should ask your attorney to explain everything that is expected from you throughout the process.
The DMV Can Still Impose Penalties
While a wet reckless charge does not result in a mandatory license suspension, the DMV may still choose to suspend or restrict your license based on the circumstances of the offense. This can lead to difficulties in getting to work or fulfilling other obligations that require driving.
If you accumulate a certain number of points and the DMV designates you a “negligent operator,” your license will be suspended.
Overall, while a wet reckless plea bargain may seem like a good option in some cases, it is important to carefully consider the potential disadvantages before accepting such an offer. Enlisting the services of an experienced DUI attorney can help you weigh your options.
Wet Reckless and Your Insurance
If the DMV suspends your license after a wet reckless conviction, you will not be able to legally drive during the suspension period. Once the suspension period is over, you will need to pay a reinstatement fee to the DMV and provide proof of insurance to have your license reinstated.
You will also need to file an SR-22 form with the DMV to prove that you have liability insurance. An SR-22 is a document that shows that you have the minimum amount of liability insurance required by law. You will need to maintain this insurance for a specified period of time, usually three years, in order to keep your license in good standing.
It's important to note that even if you have completed your license suspension period and filed an SR-22 form, your insurance rates may still be higher than they were before your wet reckless conviction. This is because insurance companies consider a wet reckless charge to be a less serious offense than a DUI, but it still indicates a higher risk of future accidents or traffic violations.
Alternatives to a Wet Reckless Plea Bargain
There are two common alternatives to wet reckless plea: an exhibition of speed and dry reckless.
Dry reckless is the most common alternative to a wet reckless plea bargain. However, you need strong evidence to suggest that your reckless driving was not a result of alcohol or drugs.
This offense will not show up in your criminal background searches, hence a better option since it does not carry the stigma of an alcohol-related conviction.
Exhibition of Speed
Exhibition of speed is a lesser charge that falls under Vehicle Code 23109, and it involves driving a vehicle in a manner that willfully or wantonly displays a lack of regard for the safety of others or property.
Speed ex carries less severe punishments than a DUI, especially subsequent DUI offenses, but it is still considered a criminal offense. The penalties for a first-time speed ex conviction include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. It may also involve probation, community service, and a mandatory traffic school program.
While speed ex may be seen as a more favorable option compared to a DUI conviction, it is important to note that it still carries consequences and may have an impact on your criminal record and driving record.
Find a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
While it may not always be offered or accepted, a wet reckless plea bargain has a number of potential advantages over a DUI conviction, such as shorter jail time, lower fines, and reduced probation periods. However, it is important to carefully consider the specific circumstances of the case, and the potential drawbacks of a wet reckless plea, such as increased insurance rates and the possibility of still facing enhanced penalties for any future DUI incidents. Ultimately, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine the best course of action in any DUI case. If you are in Bakersfield, we invite you to contact Koenig Law Office at 661-793-7222 for an evaluation of your case to determine the best action.