The stakes for defendants facing DUI charges in California are high. Depending on your criminal history and the circumstances of your case, you risk facing harsh legal and collateral consequences. A DUI conviction will see you serve a jail sentence, probation, and hefty fines. Additionally, you could lose your driver’s license in a suspension or revocation.
In addition to fighting the charges and avoiding a conviction, entering a plea deal is another way to avoid the harsh consequences of a DUI conviction. Wet reckless involves operating a vehicle with disregard for the safety of others. Pleading guilty to reckless driving with an alcohol notation ensures you face less serious legal penalties and a lower social stigma from the conviction.
Unfortunately, wet reckless is not available for all defendants. You need to convince the prosecution that the plea deal is in the best interests of justice. California's drunk driving laws are strict. Therefore, negotiating a plea will require the guidance of a skilled defense attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we offer expert guidance to all our clients battling DUI charges in Anaheim, CA.
An Overview of Wet Reckless
California Vehicle Code 23103.5 addresses the charge reduction for “wet reckless.” Typically, you will not be arrested and charged with wet reckless. The charge is offered as a plea bargain for defendants facing DUI charges. Although “wet reckless” involves reckless driving, there will be an alcohol notation in your conviction.
The main difference between "wet reckless" and “dry reckless” is that "wet reckless" implies that alcohol was involved in your crime. Additionally, “wet reckless” is a priorable offense. Dry reckless, on the other hand, is another name for regular VC 23103 on reckless driving.
A wet reckless plea is not an option for all defendants. The prosecutor and your defense attorney must agree on the plea before you proceed. Once everyone agrees, you can plead “guilty” or “no contest” to reckless driving. The court will then dismiss your drunk driving charge.
Factors Influencing Your “Wet Reckless” Plea
Prosecutors are stringent when prosecuting drunk driving charges. Therefore, convincing the prosecutor in your case to reduce your DUI to "wet reckless” is challenging. You may successfully enter a "wet reckless" plea under the following circumstances:
You are a First-Time Offender
California DUI laws are stringent for repeat offenders. Facing a second or third DUI arrest within ten years may indicate a disregard for the law and an inability to rehabilitate. Therefore, your criminal history plays a significant role in determining your eligibility for the plea. You are more likely to enter a plea when you are a first-time offender.
There is Proof of Your Rising BAC
Your blood alcohol content test results are significant pieces of evidence in your DUI case. The legal limit for operating on a standard driver’s license is 0.08%. Therefore, if your BAC exceeds the limit, the chances of a DUI conviction are high. A common defense in DUI cases is that our BAC rose between the arrest and the administration of the blood test.
If sufficient evidence supports this theory, the prosecution can reduce your DUI to “wet reckless.”
You were Stopped Without Probable Cause
Unless you stop at a sobriety checkpoint, traffic officers must have probable cause to stop your vehicle on the road. Some of the factors that help the officers form a probable cause include:
- Running a red light,
- A violation of traffic rules,
- Swerving from lane to lane.
After the stop, the officers will perform other tests to determine that you were drunk driving. Stopping your vehicle without probable cause is a violation of your constitutional rights. If your DUI case proceeds, you can petition the court to dismiss some of the evidence collected at the illegal DUI stop.
With evidence that your DUI stop was unlawful, it is easy to convince the prosecution to reduce your DUI to wet reckless.
Your BAC is Lower than or Close to 0.08%
A DUI arrest and criminal charges arise when you operate a vehicle with impaired conduct or when your blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit. You may face harsher penalties in California when your BAC is extremely high. If your BAC was slightly above 0.08% or below the limit, you could negotiate to reduce your DUI to wet reckless.
You can do this by arguing that the amount of alcohol in your blood is not enough to cloud your judgment or impair your driving.
Chemical Testing in your Case Did Not Comply with Title 17 Requirements
Chemical tests play a significant role in your prosecution and DUI conviction. Therefore, finding fault with the test results' accuracy is one way to fight your charges. There are regulations that the officers must follow when administering the breath and blood tests. Failure to follow the legal procedures weakens your DUI case. With evidence of a title 17 violation, you can negotiate a plea deal for wet reckless.
Benefits of a Wet Reckless Plea Bargain in California
If you enter a "wet reckless" plea for your DUI in California, you will enjoy the following benefits:
Shorter Jail Time
A conviction for drunk driving will see you spend up to six months in county jail for a first offense. As a repeat offender, you will serve a year in county jail. On the other hand, entering a wet reckless reduces your jail sentence to ninety days in county jail. If the court grants probation, you may not spend a single day in jail for “wet reckless.”
The probation for drunk driving in California lasts between three and five years. The probation will be accompanied by strict conditions that you must follow. If you enter the wet reckless plea, you will serve a maximum of two years on probation. Shorter probation is beneficial when you seek to expunge your criminal conviction.
Lower Court Fines
A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by jail time, fines, and probation. After a drunk driving conviction, you will be required to pay a $1,000 fine. Together with penalty assessment fees, you could pay up to $3,000 to the court. The fines you will need to pay for a wet reckless are up to half the amount mandated for a DUI.
No Mandatory Driver’s License Suspension
The loss of your driving privileges is one of the most dreaded consequences of a DUI conviction. The court imposes a mandatory license suspension of six months for the first offense after a DUI conviction. Other instances when you suffer a mandatory license suspension are when you violate underage DUI laws or fail to submit to chemical tests.
There is no mandatory license suspension for defendants who plead guilty to "wet reckless." However, you must schedule and attend a DMV hearing where you contest the administrative suspension.
Shorter DUI School
The penalties for a wet reckless conviction include a six-week alcohol education program. This period is significantly shorter than the three months required for drunk driving. If you have a prior DUI or wet reckless conviction, your DUI school period will increase to nine months.
Downsides of a Wet Reckless Plea
Although accepting a wet reckless plea has many benefits, there are several downsides you should consider before accepting the plea:
- “Wet reckless” is a Prior. Like DUI, “wet reckless” counts as a prior. Therefore, if you face subsequent DUI charges after the plea, you will be treated as a repeat offender and face penalties for a second DUI.
- The DMV can still suspend your license. Although the court will not impose a mandatory license suspension after you plead guilty to reckless driving, the Department of Motor Vehicle will attempt to suspend your license. You can avoid administrative license suspension by scheduling a timely DMV hearing and winning the hearing.
- You receive two "negligent operator" points. Two points are added to your record when you enter a wet reckless plea deal. Being labeled as a negligent operator can prompt your auto insurance provider to increase your premiums or cancel the policy.
- “Wet reckless” will enter your criminal record. Entering a plea deal involves pleading guilty to reckless driving with an alcohol notation. The conviction will go on your record, which employers can find during background checks.
Expunging a Wet Reckless Conviction
Like DUI, a “wet reckless” will remain relevant to your record for up to ten years. Even after this time, the conviction may impact multiple aspects of your life. Expungement is a legal proceeding where you are relieved of the disabilities of your criminal conviction. Expunging your “wet reckless” conviction significantly affects your future opportunities.
You must meet the following criteria to expunge your wet reckless conviction:
- Complete your probation. You must have completed your probation sentence or received an early termination before petitioning the court to expunge your “wet reckless” conviction. Fortunately, accepting a wet reckless plea means serving shorter probation and filing for expungement.
- You are not facing charges or penalties for another offense. One of the critical terms of probation is avoiding criminal activity. Therefore, facing additional charges between your conviction and an expungement will disqualify you from post-conviction relief.
The process of expunging your record will involve compiling all your records, filing a petition, and attending an expungement hearing. If the court grants you an expungement, employers cannot use the conviction to discriminate against you. Additionally, your application for a professional license will not be automatically disqualified.
You can expunge your wet reckless conviction within three to four months. However, the process can take longer if the prosecutor or district attorney does not support your petition. Seeking legal guidance is critical throughout the expungement process.
Frequently Asked Questions on Wet Reckless Plea Deal
Facing an arrest and charges for drunk driving is challenging. Therefore, you can be excited and confused when there is a way to escape a conviction under California Vehicle Code 23152 through a wet reckless plea deal. The following are frequently asked questions on a wet reckless plea in California:
If the court fails to suspend my license, can the DMV still suspend it?
Yes. Even when you plead guilty to wet reckless, your conviction will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicle. The DMV treats the conviction as a DUI, which means you must schedule a hearing to fight the suspension of your license. The DMV hearing is separate from the court hearing, and the outcome of the hearing is not impacted by your criminal conviction.
Is a wet reckless plea available for all defendants?
No. Not all individuals facing charges for drunk driving are eligible for a wet reckless plea. The prosecution will consider the circumstances of your case before offering you the plea deal. One of the common instances, when the plea is applicable in your case is when your BAC does not exceed 0.08%. Additionally, when the prosecutor’s case is weak, and the likelihood of a conviction is low, you can plead guilty to “wet reckless.”
Should I accept a “wet reckless” plea?
Although a wet reckless plea offers numerous benefits, it is not always the best action for your case. You must understand that you will still suffer a driver’s license suspension, spend time in jail, and have a prior on your record. If you have strong evidence in your case and there is a high chance that you will win and avoid a conviction, you can forgo the plea deal and battle your charges.
Having the guidance of a competent attorney will help you understand whether the plea is in your best interests.
Do I need SR-22 Insurance after a wet reckless conviction?
A conviction for “wet reckless” or drunk driving does not trigger the need for SR-22 insurance. Instead, it is the DMV's suspension of your driver’s license. “Wet reckless" and drunk driving require you to attend an administrative hearing where you defend your license outside the criminal court proceedings.
Failure to schedule the hearing or a loss at the hearing will attract a license suspension. Before reinstatement of your driving privileges, the DMV requires you to file for SR-22 insurance.
Why should I accept a wet reckless plea?
One of the setbacks of a wet reckless plea is that the conviction is still prior. This means that in your subsequent DUI or wet reckless conviction, you will be treated as a repeat offender. However, the plea may still be a good way to court in the long run. A “wet reckless' conviction looks better on your criminal record than drunk driving.
A “wet reckless” carries less weight during employment and housing background checks. Additionally, auto insurance companies will be more lenient on drivers who face a wet reckless plea. While you may spend three to five years on DUI probation, wet reckless has a shorter probation period, allowing you to seek an expungement.
How long will a “wet reckless” conviction stay on my record?
Each conviction you face in California will go on your criminal record. This includes offenses for which you are charged. Your “wet reckless” conviction will remain significant for up to ten years. If you face another arrest and conviction for drunk driving during this period, you will be charged with and convicted of a second DUI. A second DUI offense attracts harsher penalties and collateral consequences.
Additional DUI Pleas
Besides “wet reckless,” you can negotiate other plea deals when you face DUI charges in California. They include:
Commonly known as reckless driving, dry reckless is a misdemeanor charge that arises as a plea bargain to drunk driving charges. Reckless driving, in this case, means operating a vehicle in a manner that disregards the safety of others. Unlike wet reckless, there is no notation of alcohol use in your charge.
The prosecution is more likely to accept this plea if your blood alcohol content is lower than 0.08% or if there are major flaws in the evidence presented for your DUI case. When you enter a dry reckless plea, you will suffer a significantly lower jail sentence and lower fines. Additionally, “dry reckless” is not a priorable offense. Therefore, this conviction will not impact your sentencing for future DUI crimes.
Prosecutors are reluctant to accept a “dry reckless” plea. Consequently, you will require the guidance of a skilled DUI attorney to show weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and convince them to offer you the plea.
Exhibition of Speed
One of the most common ways to beat a DUI charge is by arguing that you were not intoxicated but reckless driving. California Vehicle Code 23109 criminalizes racing on highways for showoff. This conduct is considered dangerous. A vehicle traveling at high speed can easily lose control and hit other cars. Additionally, an impact on a car at high speed could cause more severe injuries or death.
However, speeding is not evidence of intoxication. Therefore, you can negotiate to reduce your drunk driving charge to an exhibition of speed. A conviction for drunk driving will see you serve jail time, three to five years of probation, and a mandatory license suspension. All these penalties do not apply to an exhibition of speed.
If you plead guilty to the exhibition of speed, you will face a maximum of 90 days in jail and pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000. Instead, you may pay a fine, serve a shorter probation, and avoid going behind bars. Additionally, you are not mandated to attend DUI classes. There is no association of alcohol or drugs with your charge or conviction for the exhibition of speed. Therefore, most vehicle insurers could overlook the conviction and have your policy remain the same.
Exhibition of speed is not prior. Therefore, if you are arrested for drunk driving in the future, you will not be considered a repeat offender, and your penalties will not be enhanced.
Being Drunk in Public
Under California Penal Code 647(f), it is unlawful to be drunk in public to an extent where you cannot exercise reasonable caution for the safety of others. You violate this law when your intoxication obstructs, disturbs, or hinders other people from exercising their right to be in public areas. The prosecution finds you guilty of public intoxication if the following elements are true:
- You were knowingly intoxicated in a public area.
- Your intoxication hindered the free utilization of streets and sidewalks.
A conviction for public intoxication is punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months, probation, and fines that do not exceed $1,000. While you can be arrested and charged with this offense, there are times when you can enter a plea deal for public intoxication for your DUI charge.
Another instance when the prosecution can accept this plea is when there is no evidence of driving in your DUI case. For example, if you are intoxicated and driving a running vehicle, you can be arrested and charged with DUI. However, the lack of evidence to show that you were operating the vehicle could prompt the prosecution to reduce your charge.
Find a Competent Defense Attorney Near Me
You cannot be arrested and charged with “wet reckless” in California. Instead, the charge arises as a plea deal in your DUI case. Before you face a DUI conviction, the prosecution must prove that you were operating a vehicle with a BAC exceeding the legal limit.
Additionally, your charge may be based on your driving. After serving your jail time and paying the fines, the DUI conviction will remain on your record and can impact your personal and professional life. When you hire a DUI defense lawyer to help beat the charges, the first thought is to avoid a conviction and walk free. However, if this is impossible, you can explore other options, like entering a wet reckless plea.
Where the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they can offer you a plea of “wet reckless.” With a wet reckless conviction, you avoid mandatory sentences.
Additionally, “wet reckless” carries less weight on your record. You will benefit from our expert guidance at California Criminal Lawyer Group if you face DUI charges in Anaheim, CA. Our skilled attorneys will help protect your rights and negotiate a favorable plea. Contact us at 714-766-0965 to discuss your case details.