If you were recently charged with a DUI in San Diego, you may have several questions regarding what it means to “plead to a wet reckless”.  Most people have heard the term wet reckless and know it has some relation to a DUI charge but probably know little about what it actually is. The “wet reckless” exists in a somewhat unique area of law, in that it’s not a crime that you can actually be arrested for or charged with initially.  Instead, a “wet reckless” is a charge you might agree to plead down to, from your initial charge of DUI.

If you do ultimately plead down to wet reckless, what you will actually be convicted of is California Vehicle Code 23103, or Reckless Driving (commonly referred to as a “dry reckless”).  However, it will be noted in your record of conviction, that the underlying incident involved drugs and/or alcohol.  Essentially, it can be thought of as “Reckless Driving + Alcohol”.

There are often several advantages to pleading to a wet reckless rather than potentially being convicted of DUI.  The main advantage is that the penalties are less severe.  For example, a wet reckless will carry lower fines, shorter probation periods, and a shorter potential jail sentence.  Further, your driver’s license wont automatically be suspended as it would for a DUI. 

However, pleading to a wet reckless is not always the best option and there can be disadvantages.  For example, a wet reckless conviction can cause your car insurance premiums to increase.  Moreover, a wet reckless will still be treated as a “prior DUI offense” if you are later convicted of a DUI; essentially a future DUI would be charged as a Second Offense DUI and your sentence would be enhanced.  As such, if you have a strong enough defense, it may be wiser to bring your case to trial in hopes of avoiding conviction all together. 

For this reason, if you have been arrested for DUI, it is important that you consult with an experienced defense attorney who understands when it’s in your best interest to plead to a wet reckless.  For decades, the lawyers at the San Diego DUI Attorney have aggressively and effectively represented DUI defendants throughout San Diego county.  If after reading this article, you you have further questions about your case, we encourage you to contact our office for a FREE DUI consultation.         

Understanding California Vehicle Code 23103.5 – “Wet Reckless”

Essentially, a wet reckless can be thought of as a reduced DUI.  They are commonly the result of a plea bargain after an arrest for driving under the influence.  As noted above, a wet reckless is not a separate offense for which you can get arrested.  In other words, a wet reckless is always a charge that will be plead to and can never be the original crime leading to arrest.  On your record, it simply reads as a conviction for reckless driving (“dry reckless – VC 22103”), with a special notation indicating drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident.

Now that you have a general understanding of what a wet reckless is, we can discuss when and why it might be advantageous to plead to a wet reckless.      

Wet Reckless – The Advantages

People commonly ask whether or not the should agree to plead to a wet reckless.  Unfortunately, the answer is not so cut-and-dried and will vary on a case by case basis.  A variety of factors must be considered before accepting any plea bargain.  Nevertheless, pleading down to a wet reckless can often be extremely advantageous.  Some of the advantages include the following:

Less Jail Time

Obviously, the less jail time you have to serve, the better.  For a wet reckless, the maximum county jail sentence is ninety (90) days.  Compare that to the the six (6) month maximum for a First Offense DUI (Note that the maximum sentence will increase for Second or Third Offense DUIs).  Ninety days vs. six months is a huge distinction.  Furthermore, the reduced maximum jail sentence will play a huge role if probation is assigned as part of your penalty.  In the event that you violate the terms of your probation, you might have to serve jail time.  However, you can only be sent to jail for up to the amount of time the maximum sentence for your conviction allows.  As such, the ninety-day maximum sentence for a wet reckless can still play an important role, even if little or no jail time is initially assigned.   

In the event that you have prior DUI incidents, pleading down to a wet reckless can also have a huge impact on the minimum jail sentence that can be assigned.  Pursuant to California law, a Second Offense DUI carries a minimum sentence of ninety (90) day in jail, and a Third Offense DUI carries a minimum sentence of 120 days in jail.  No matter what prior DUI offenses you have, the minimum sentence for a wet reckless is never greater then five (5) days. 

As such, pleading to a wet reckless can have a huge impact on the amount of jail time you actually serve.  As you know, less jail time means less time away from your family and less time away from your job. 

Less Time On Probation

The period of probation is reduced under a wet reckless charge. Typically, a DUI in California requires a three to five-year probationary period. San Diego County mandates 5 years in nearly all cases. If a charge is successfully changed to a wet reckless in California, the required probation period is decreased to between 1 and 3 years. This is especially beneficial for individuals seeking employment as a background check will indicate if an individual is on active probation. Additionally, a charge cannot typically be expunged while the offender is in a probationary period.

Less In Fines

In California, both a DUI and a Wet Reckless carry a “maximum” fine of $1,000.  Even so, defendants typically end up paying much less if they plead down to a wet reckless.  In addition to fines, there are other “penalty assessments” that must be paid after a DUI conviction.  In total, after a DUI conviction, you could be paying a total of a bout $3,000 in fines and assessments.  For a wet reckless, it is common that you have to pay only about half of what you would have to for a DUI.   

No Mandatory License Suspension

A first DUI offense always involves an automatic license suspension from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If the offender refuses to participate in a chemical blood alcohol test or if the offender was under the age of 21 at the time of the arrest, a conviction can result in a 1-year driver’s license suspension. Additionally, if the offender is caught driving with a suspended license, other penalties may be added including jail time and/or a probation violation.

A wet reckless in California does not automatically require a driver’s license suspension. This is especially beneficial for an individual who refused the breath or blood alcohol concentration test and faces a 1-year suspension of his/her license. Additionally, a wet reckless conviction may have a less detrimental impact on certain professional driver’s licenses or commercial driver’s licenses. Please note that an individual charged with a wet reckless may still face a license suspension if he/she has a blood alcohol content of over 0.08% or if he/she loses the DMV hearing (see “10 Stages of a California DUI”). 

Less Dui School

A first DUI conviction in California requires the completion of at least a 12-week alcohol education program. If the conviction is successfully reduced to a wet reckless, the offender may be required to attend a 6-week class, or may avoid the classes altogether. Under legislation passed in 2009, an individual who is convicted of a wet reckless and has a prior DUI or wet reckless conviction is required to attend a 9-month court ordered program. An individual convicted of a second DUI is required to attend an alcohol education program for between 18 and 30 months.

Wet Reckless – The Disadvantages

While there are many advantages, pleading down to a wet reckless is not always in your best interest.  Further, some aspects of a wet reckless are treated just as if you were convicted of a DUI. 

A Wet Reckless Will Affect Your Insurance

In many cases, your auto insurance provider will treat your wet reckless just as if you were convicted of a DUI.  This will likely lead to an increase in your premiums.  In some cases, you may even be denied coverage under your current policy. 

Your License Can Still Be Suspended

Although a wet reckless will not lead to an automatic license suspension, there are some circumstances where the DMV will still impose a suspension.  If your blood alcohol content (BAC) was at least .08%, and you do not win your DMV Hearing, your license will be suspended.

A Wet Reckless Will Count As A Prior Dui Offense

Multiple DUI convictions within a ten (10) year period, will lead to enhanced sentences.  If you do decide to plead to a wet reckless, it’s important to understand that it will be treated as a prior DUI offense with respect to any subsequent DUI charges.

When Can My Dui Be Reduced To A Wet Reckless?

As noted above, a reduction to wet reckless must come as the result of a plea bargain.  As such, the prosecution will have to agree to let you plead to the lesser charge. While the prosecution has no obligation to offer a wet reckless, we commonly see them result in cases where there is some weakness in the prosecution’s case.  Having a clean record, both criminal and driving, can go a long way in negotiating your case down to a wet reckless.  Further, the lower your BAC was, the more likely the prosecution will be willing to offer a reduced charge.  Even how cooperative you are with the police and the prosecution can play a role in being offered a wet reckless. 

Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that a wet reckless will not be offered in every case.  Because of the negotiating involved, having a skilled and experienced attorney on your side will drastically increase the likelihood you are offered a wet reckless.  Our defense team at the San Diego DUI Attorney will aggressively negotiate on your behalf, and will make sure you completely understand the nature of the deal you are offered.  Keep in mind, that while pleading to a wet reckless is often a great result, it may not be the best deal you can get.  In many cases, you may be able to obtain a “dry reckless” offer or even get your case completely dismissed.  Our attorneys will help you navigate the plea bargaining process so you achieve the result that is best for your future.  

If You Have Been Charged With A Dui, We Encourage You To Contact The San Diego Dui Attorney As Soon As Possible.

If you are arrested and charged with a DUI involving alcohol or drugs, you have the right to a sound defense from an experienced attorney. Our team is skilled in creating a solid defense with the goal of getting your case dismissed. During the investigation and defense stages of your case, your private DUI attorney will work to develop and secure a reduced charge and sentence by means of a plea bargain.

At the San Diego DUI Attorney, we know that a DUI charge can bring about great amounts of stress. This is especially true if you depend on your driver’s license to get to work and carry out your daily routine to support your family. Our experienced team will carefully review your case and work closely with you to get you the best outcome possible and make the process as painless as possible.

Contact Our Office Today At 619-535-7150 For A Free Dui Consultation.