If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge in Los Angeles, you are at risk of losing your license for months or even years, being subject to heavy fines, and (depending on the details of your case) spending time in county jail or even state prison if convicted.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand the gravity of the charge you face and always fight for an acquittal or dismissal where possible. However, we also understand the realities of how the L.A. court system works and know how to apply our seasoned negotiating skills to get a DUI charge reduced to that of "wet reckless."
There are a number of advantages to having a wet reckless instead of a DUI conviction on your record, many of which we will mention just below.
What Is Driving "Wet Reckless?"
California Vehicle Code Sections 23103 & 23103.5 are involved in making the charge of wet reckless against a defendant. The former is the law against reckless driving, the "dry reckless" law, and the latter is a stipulation that if a DUI defendant has his/her DUI charge reduced to dry reckless in a plea agreement, a notation must be affixed to the record of the plea stating whether or not alcohol or intoxicating drugs were involved in the incident. If so, the note makes the dry reckless charge a wet reckless charge.
Technically, then, "wet reckless" is not even a specific crime for which a person can be arrested but is exclusively a plea bargain. It is simply a dry reckless conviction with a notation attached saying that alcohol/drugs were, in fact involved in the incident.
Prosecutors may agree to a wet reckless plea bargain to avoid a long, drawn out case that they might, perhaps, end up losing. Defense attorneys may agree to such a plea deal if an acquittal/dismissal seems unlikely, and yet, they have a strong enough case to "force the prosecution to the table."
A wet reckless conviction does not always result in your license being suspended, and fines, incarceration time, probation, and other sentencing elements will be more lenient than with a DUI conviction. However, there are some negatives to wet reckless as well, such as it counting like a DUI as to counting if a future DUI be a repeat offense and it being treated the same as a DUI by auto insurance companies.
Should I Seek a Wet Reckless Plea Bargain?
Whether or not it is to your advantage to pursue a wet reckless plea agreement will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.
If you are facing a repeat offense DUI, especially a third or fourth time offense, the increased punishments you face for a DUI conviction make a wet reckless plea more appealing. A first time offender might also do well to accept a wet reckless plea, however, to keep a DUI of his/her record if an outright victory is unobtainable.
Below, we detail some of the advantages that factor into the decision to accept a wet reckless plea:
- Reduced jail time.
Wet reckless has both shorter minimum and maximum county jail terms than most DUIs. For example, wet reckless is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, while a DUI can receive up to six months of jail time. A 2nd/3rd time DUI can get up to 12 months of jail time. And while it is true that those convicted of DUI can often get probation instead of actual jail time, should you violate the terms of your probation, the presiding judge will have authority to have you serve the time behind bars — so lower jail terms still matter.
Additionally, wet reckless has a shorter mandatory jail term for those who already have prior DUIs/wet reckless convictions on their records. Thus, wet reckless carries a five-day minimum stay in county jail for a repeat offense (regardless of how many priors are on the defendant's record). But, 2nd offense DUI carries a 90-day minimum jail term, and a 3rd offense DUI has a 120-day minimum. And actual sentences for repeat DUI offenders are often set above the minimums.
- Reduced probationary periods.
Should you receive probation in place of jail/prison time for your DUI conviction, it will be of great importance how long the probationary period lasts. The longer it continues, the more difficult it will be to avoid violating the terms and potentially going to jail to serve the original sentence.
Wet reckless convictions normally get probation periods of 1 to 2 years, while DUI convictions often carry 3 to 5 year probationary periods.
The longer you are on probation, the longer it will be before you can get your charge expunged and the longer it will be that prospective employers see you are out on probation when they run a background check. Two or three years less of probation is well worth the plea in many cases.
- Smaller fines.
While the official fines for a DUI are often between $390 and $1,000, when court-imposed fees are added in, the real costs are often from $1,800 to $3,000.
Wet reckless charges typically have much lower fines and fees associated with them. In fact, you will likely pay only 50% or less of what you would have paid for a DUI conviction.
- Shorter DUI class requirements.
Although some length of time in DUI school will apply regardless of whether you get a DUI or a wet reckless, the mandatory attendance period is shorter with wet reckless.
A first-time DUI will get you a minimum of 3 months in DUI school, while a first-time wet reckless may get you 6 weeks or less of DUI school. It is true that a repeat offense wet reckless (within the 10-year look-back period) will result in a 9-month minimum DUI class, but a 2nd DUI requires even more time (18 to 30 months) spent in DUI school.
While there are benefits to attending DUI school, the time and money spent can become quite a heavy burden after months or even years of classes. Thus, a shorter DUI school under wet reckless can be a true advantage.
- Retention of CDLs and professional licenses.
In many cases, a DUI or at least a repeat DUI will result in the loss of a commercial driver's license or of various professional licenses. A wet reckless conviction often allows you to retain these where a DUI would not, though this varies from case to case.
Since those with a CDL or special professional license depend on them for their livelihood, it is hard to overestimate the value of getting the charge reduced to wet reckless for these defendants.
- Driver's license suspension is not mandatory.
A DUI conviction in Los Angeles will certainly lead to your driver's license being suspended for at least some period of time, while such suspension is not mandatory with a wet reckless conviction.
A first-time DUI carries a 6-month license suspension, a 2nd DUI carries a 2-years suspension, and a 3rd DUI within 10 years of the first carries a 3-year license suspension.
In many cases, one convicted on DUI can get a restricted license to drive to/from work and DUI class after an initial full suspension period. However, a restricted license is not automatically granted, and for refusal of the chemical test, underage DUI, and certain other DUI offenses, no restricted license is permitted for a full year. Finally, there are stiff penalties for driving on license suspended for DUI.
It is still possible that your license could be suspended after a wet reckless conviction since a later DMV decision will determine it as opposed to the court hearing, but there is at least a chance of avoiding a suspension altogether.
Negative Aspects of a Wet Reckless Conviction
There are a few drawbacks to wet reckless convictions, where they are treated the same as DUI convictions. As we look at these, however, remember that wet reckless never results in anything worse than a DUI would and often (as outlined above) has many benefits.
- Possible license suspension.
As mentioned above, though license suspension is not mandatory as with DUIs, it is still possible with wet reckless. In general, the suspension will still take place if you both had a BAC of .08 or higher and lost your DMV hearing. This underscores the importance of having a good DUI defense lawyer to assist you at your DMV hearing.
- Wet reckless counts as a "prior."
For purposes of deciding if a later DUI is a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time offense, a wet reckless on your record will count the same as a DUI. Thus, while wet reckless looks a little better on your record and carries lesser punishments, it counts the same if there are repeat DUI charges.
- Insurers often treat DUI and wet reckless the same.
While it depends on your insurer and nothing should happen until your policy needs to be renewed, you could see your premium rise sharply or even have your policy canceled due to a wet reckless on your driving record just the same as for a DUI. You could also have difficulty finding a new insurer or have to pay more once you do.
When is a Wet Reckless Plea Typically Offered?
A good defense lawyer will know when it is best to accept a wet reckless plea offer and will know how to challenge the prosecution's evidence and otherwise apply pressure and engage in negotiations for such a plea.
But, under what circumstances will a prosecutor typically offer to reduce the charge from DUI to wet reckless as part of a plea agreement?
First, if your BAC was barely at or barely above .08, there is a good chance for a wet reckless plea. Second, if there are weaknesses in the prosecutor's case and he/she wants a quick resolution, the plea may be offered. The risks of losing a case, such as affecting the prosecutor’s “win/loss record," may lead to a plea in such circumstances.
Other mitigating circumstances, such as a clean criminal and driving record and full cooperation with police during the arrest (especially submission to field sobriety, breath, and blood tests) also work in favor of gaining a plea offer.
For repeat offenders, prosecutors often feel much public pressure to refuse to offer a wet reckless plea (or any other plea), but if there are technical/procedural problems with the case, he/she may "come around" to the plea.
Note that it is not always desirable to obtain a wet reckless plea deal, especially for first-time DUI defendants who might be able to win their cases or get a better plea with a reduction to, say, dry reckless. It is key to rely on a highly experienced DUI defense attorney who knows when to pursue a plea and when not to and which is the best plea likely obtainable based on the facts of the case.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have developed a deep knowledge of both California law and of local L.A. court processes. We know when and how to seek/accept a plea agreement involving a wet reckless conviction in place of a DUI conviction.
We fight with both tenacity and legal acumen to secure you the best possible outcome to your DUI case. The bottom line is this — we always do everything legally possible to promote the best interests of every one of our clients.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Lawyer 24/7/365 at 424-281-3020.