The benefits of a "wet reckless" plea bargain are real... but they're also limited. Make sure you understand them before making this deal with a prosecutor.
When someone is arrested for California DUI, prosecutors have the option of lowering the charge from DUI to reckless driving. This option is spelled out in California Vehicle Code section 23103.5.
When the lowered charge retains an allegation that the reckless driver was drinking, this is commonly called a California “wet reckless” plea bargain.
1. The Benefits of a “Wet Reckless” Plea Bargain
Avoiding a conviction labeled "DUI" is of value, in and of itself. But a “wet reckless” plea bargain in a California DUI case can be beneficial in other ways, including:
If you are convicted of California DUI, you will be on probation for three to five years. Probation for a wet reckless is much shorter -- only one to two years.
Less jail time
If you are convicted of a first-time California DUI, you could spend up to six (6) months in county jail. A wet reckless as a first offense, on the other hand, carries a maximum sentence of 90 days.
Fines for a first-time DUI are $390-$1,000 (plus the court-imposed penalty assessment). There is no minimum fine for a wet reckless – and often the actual amount is less than half of that for DUI.
Shorter alcohol/drug education program
With a DUI, the court is required to order an alcohol and/or drug education program lasting at least 90 day (24 hours or so of actual class time). With a wet reckless, the court may impose just 12-hours of an alcohol program.
No license restriction
After a DUI conviction, your license will be severely restricted. For at least 6 months, you will only be permitted to drive to/from work and/or your alcohol program. But with a wet reckless plea, the court is not required to impose such a restriction.
No sentencing enhancements for prior DUI(s)
If you have a prior DUI conviction, the court will impose mandatory penalty enhancements, including extended jail time. A wet reckless plea bargain lets you avoid these.
2. What a “Wet Reckless” Plea Bargain Doesn't Do
A wet reckless will count as a prior conviction if you suffer a DUI conviction within the next ten years. Prior convictions trigger mandatory sentencing enhancements on subsequent DUI convictions.
Your insurance company is likely to treat your wet reckless as a DUI for purposes of considering whether to cancel your insurance or hike your premium.
California DMV Suspension
If the DMV suspends your license as the result of your arrest, a wet reckless plea bargain will not affect that suspension.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI -- don't lose hope! Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers have successfully represented thousands of people accused of drunk driving. We know that a plea bargain is just one option out of many. While it is often the best one, it may be better to fight your case in court. DUI defense is an individual and personal matter, best decided in consultation with an experienced DUI attorney. An initial consultation is free and completely confidential. Contact us today to learn how we can help.