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California "Dry Reckless" Plea Bargains in DUI Cases

"Dry reckless" plea bargains may offer you an acceptable compromise with your DUI prosecutor...

1. What is a California “Dry Reckless” Plea Bargain?

When you are arrested for DUI in California, the prosecutor has the option of allowing you to plead guilty to a lesser charge. California Vehicle Code section 23103.5 sets forth two of these lesser charges.  They are:

  • “wet” reckless (reckless driving involving drugs or alcohol), and
  • “dry” reckless (in which no alcohol or drugs were involved).

2. The Benefits of a "Dry Reckless" Plea Bargain

A dry reckless plea bargain is often preferable to fighting a charge of California DUI. Advantages to pleading guilty or no contest to a California dry reckless can include:

Shorter period of probation

Probation for a dry reckless conviction will typically only last one or two years.  This is less than half the probationary period for a California DUI, which typically lasts between three and five years.

Shorter maximum jail sentence

A DUI conviction can land you in county jail for up to 6 months (for a first offense). The maximum sentence for a dry reckless is 90 days.

Lower fines

The maximum fine for both California DUI and dry reckless is $1,000.  However, the mandatory minimum fine for a dry reckless is $145, compared to $390 for DUI. As a practical matter, by the time you add in county penalty assessments, the actual amount you pay for a dry reckless is usually only one-third to one-half of what you would pay for DUI.

No "priorability"

Both DUI and wet reckless convictions are “priorable” offenses.  This means that if you arrested again for DUI within the next ten years, you will have a prior conviction on your record. Penalties for repeat drunk or drugged driving are stiffer than for first-time offenders. A dry reckless plea, on the other hand, does not count as a prior offense.  This is one of the most significant advantages of a dry reckless plea bargain.

No mandatory alcohol education program

If you are convicted of California DUI, you will be required to complete a minimum three-month alcohol and/or drug program (18 months for repeat offenders). Although the prosecutor and/or judge might require that you participate in such a program as a condition of a dry reckless plea bargain, they are not required to do so. And even if one is required, it will likely only be a six-week program.

No mandatory court-ordered license suspension

A California DUI conviction triggers a six-month driver's license suspension – longer if you have prior DUI or wet reckless convictions.  A dry reckless conviction adds 2 points to your California DMV record.  If you accrue too many within a given period of time, the DMV will deem you a negligent operator and suspend your license. Otherwise, a dry reckless does not result in a California driver's license suspension.

No mandatory sentencing enhancements if you have a prior conviction

If you have a prior DUI or wet reckless conviction, a judge may sentence you more harshly than if you were a first-time offender.  However, there is no mandatory requirement that the judge do so, as is the case with DUI.

Reduced risk of insurance premium hikes or cancellation

Unlike a California wet reckless or California DUI conviction, a dry reckless driving conviction is less likely to result in cancellation of your auto insurance or increased premiums. Se our page on DUI for further discussion.

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Dry reckless plea bargains are usually obtained through a process of negotiation with the prosecution. Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers have years of experience pointing up the weaknesses in a DUI case. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation. Let us help you fight – or negotiate – your case and avoid conviction for a DUI.

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DUI cases are rarely hopeless. DUI convictions are almost never inevitable. Clients retain our California DUI defense attorneys for one reason: they want to fight the case. And win.

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The police arrested you for DUI. You gave a blood or a breath sample. The DUI officer confiscated you drivers license. The police released you with a notice to appear in court in a few weeks. Where do you go from here? Our lawyers are here to guide you step by step.