December 19, 2013 By Matthew Wallin

If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in California, your criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a disposition where the DUI charge is reduced to a “wet reckless.” The “wet” in wet reckless implies that you were involved in an alcohol or drug-related driving offense.

wet reckless plea
Know the pros and cons of a wet reckless plea if you are being charged with DUI in California.

California Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 permits the prosecutor to accept a plea agreement of reckless driving under Vehicle Code Section 23103 as a substitute for a violation of California’s DUI law, with a notation on the record that alcohol or drug use may have been involved.

Most often, a wet reckless plea is offered when your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was at or near the legal limit of .08% and/or the prosecutor does not want to risk losing a DUI trial because the evidence against you is weak.

Interestingly, wet reckless is not a charge for which you can be arrested. It exists simply as a tool to induce you to plead guilty to a criminal offense where there is doubt as to whether you could be successfully prosecuted for DUI. Although there are some significant advantages to a wet reckless plea, there are some disadvantages as well.

Advantages of a Wet Reckless Plea

Here are some reasons to agree to a plea of wet reckless driving rather than risk going to trial for a DUI charge:

  • Shorter maximum jail sentence: Reckless driving carries up to a 90-day maximum jail sentence. On the other hand, a first offense DUI conviction is punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a year for a second or third misdemeanor DUI conviction.
  • No mandatory sentencing requirements for repeat reckless driving offenders: California DUI law mandates a minimum jail sentence for any misdemeanor DUI conviction within 10 years as follows:
    • 96 hours in jail for a first offense;
    • 90 days for a second offense;
    • 120 days for a third offense.
  • Shorter probation: Typically, a DUI conviction can result in three to five years of probation. A wet reckless usually carries less probation (one to two years).
  • No mandatory license suspension: A wet reckless does not automatically suspend your driver’s license. However, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license for a misdemeanor DUI conviction as follows:
    • First offense: Six months;
    • Second offense: Two years;
    • Third offense: Three years.
  • Fewer fines: The maximum fine for both a reckless driving and a DUI conviction is $1,000. However, the court may also impose a “penalty assessment” in either case. Typically, the penalty assessment for a wet reckless is about half that imposed for a DUI.
  • Shorter DUI school: A first wet reckless conviction may require you to enroll in a twelve-week alcohol education program, whereas a California DUI conviction requires a minimum three-month program.

If you are convicted of a “wet” and have another “wet” or DUI conviction within the last 10 years, you must attend a nine-month alcohol program. However, if you are convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, it will result in an 18 or 30-month class.

Disadvantages to a Wet Reckless Plea

Unfortunately, a wet reckless is treated the same as a DUI conviction in California as follows:

  • Wet reckless counts as a prior DUI: If you get convicted of any subsequent DUIs within 10 years of your “wet” conviction, that wet reckless conviction will count as a California DUI conviction and you will be sentenced as a repeat offender.
  • Driver’s license suspension: Although not automatic like a DUI conviction, the DMV will suspend your license for a wet reckless if:
    • Your BAC was a 0.08% or above; and
    • You lose your DMV administrative per se hearing.
  • Your car insurance may be affected: Your insurance company may raise your rates or even cancel your policy. Most insurance companies treat a wet reckless no differently than a DUI.

How Wallin & Klarich Can Help

You need to speak to an attorney at Wallin & Klarich right away if you have been arrested for DUI. Wallin & Klarich attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients who have been charged with alcohol or drug-related driving offenses. If we are not able to get the charges against you dismissed, we may be able get your DUI charge reduced to a wet reckless, helping you avoid the more serious consequences of a DUI conviction.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24/7 to help you keep your driver’s license, protect your job and most importantly, help you avoid serving time in jail. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

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