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Wet Reckless Plea in DUI Cases

The crime of wet reckless, or VC 23103.5, is a criminal charge that is sometimes offered in driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) cases. The wet in a wet reckless criminal charge implies that the defendant was involved in an alcohol (or even drug) related driving offense, but that the drugs or alcohol did not necessarily influence the defendant's driving.


Plea Bargain: A wet reckless is essentially a crime that is considered less harsh in terms of penalties than a DUI. The wet reckless charge is sometimes offered as part of a negotiated plea in DUI cases where the district attorney's evidence of DUI is weak or where the defendant's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by weight was at or near the legal limit at the time of defendant's alleged driving.


Note: The legal limit for a driver's BAC while driving is 0.08% for non-commercial drivers, 0.04% for commercial drivers, and 0.05% for underage drivers (under 21). Also, a driver may be charged with the crime of DUI even if the driver's BAC has not reached the legal limit. This is because a DUI charge may be alleged anytime the driver's ability to safely driver a motor is impaired by alcohol or drugs or a combination of both alcohol and drugs, even if the driver's BAC is below the legal limit. This means that a wet reckless charge is sometimes offered as part of a negotiated plea in a DUI case even when the defendant's BAC at the time of driving was below the legal limit (VC 23152(a)). 

For example, if the defendant is pulled over for suspicion of DUI and the driver registers a 0.07% BAC on a breathalyzer test then the defendant might be offered a wet reckless as opposed to a DUI criminal charge in effort for both the district attorney and the defendant to settle the matter without resorting to trial.

Note: A wet reckless is not a criminal charge itself. It is only offered as a reduction to a criminal charge of DUI. Also, a wet reckless is not likely to be offered in cases where the defendant has prior DUI convictions or where the defendant is alleged to have caused injury by way of DUI. In any event, even if a wet reckless were to be offered in a case of multiple DUI convictions or injury DUI, the judge has the authority to deny the wet reckless plea agreement.

Wet Reckless Penalty: The maximum penalty for a Wet Reckless is 90 days in jail. Therefore, if a defendant violates his or her probation after a plea to a Wet Reckless the defendant cannot be made to serve more than 90 days in jail. Furthermore, the actual probationary period for a wet reckless conviction is shorter (1-2 years instead of 3-5 years for a DUI). Also, the wet reckless fines and the number of required DUI classes are generally less than those required for DUI convictions (6 educational classes for a wet reckless v. 3-10 months of classes for a DUI conviction depending on BAC level).

Additionally, the wet reckless plea does not trigger an automatic license suspension (The DMV may suspend the defendant's license if the defendant loses the DMV hearing, but the suspension is not automatic as it is with a DUI conviction after a criminal conviction). Finally, the wet reckless plea has less impact on any professional licensing status.

Of course, the wet reckless plea does have its drawbacks: insurance companies and the DMV treat a "wet reckless" plea as a plea to a DUI. Also, a wet reckless is treated as a prior when a subsequent DUI is charged.

Further, A wet reckless plea is not appropriate or even available in every case. It is important that the defendant understands the availability and limitations of this plea offer. Remember, the facts and evidence is different in every case.

Dry v. Wet Reckless


A dry reckless is a misdemeanor reckless driving, which basically means driving with a reckless disregard for people or property (VC 23105). A dry reckless charge is another crime that is offered in some DUI cases where the evidence or DUI is weak or where the driver's BAC was well below the legal limit. With a dry reckless there is no implication of an alcohol related driving offense. Like the wet reckless plea discussed above, the dry reckless conviction provides for shorter jail sentence (maximum 90 days in jail as opposed to a maximum of 6 months in jail for a first DUI); smaller fines (as low as $145); shorter probationary period; and less negative impact on professional licensing. However, the dry reckless conviction is preferred to the wet reckless because there is no mandatory license suspension (although it does add 2 points to your driving record).

Furthermore, there is no mandatory DUI school required when pleading to a dry reckless. Most importantly, a dry reckless is not considered a prior offense. This means that if a defendant suffers a subsequent DUI it will still be considered a first DUI.

The district does not like to deal in the "dry reckless" arena. This is mostly due to the fact that the plea is not considered a prior. However, the District Attorney will sometime offer a dry reckless charge where the alleged DUI case is weak against the defendant or where the defendant's BAC at the time of driving was well below the legal limit.

To learn more about DUI cases, including the negotiated charge of wet reckless (VC 23103.5), contact our DUI lawyers today for a free consultation. Call today!



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