California Wet Reckless & High BAC

gavel on books

In California, wet reckless is not a criminal charge, it’s a plea bargain used by DUI defense attorneys to help a DUI defendant avoid a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). Law enforcement cannot arrest you for wet reckless, but the prosecution may offer it to you as an alternative to an actual DUI charge.

In Orange County and throughout California, a “wet reckless” under Vehicle Code 23103 and 23103.5 VC is a common plea bargain in driving under the influence (DUI) cases. A wet reckless under Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC is not a separate offense that you can be arrested for, nor is it a crime for which you can be charged.

Is wet reckless your best option?

Obviously, the goal of any defense lawyer is to get the client's charges dismissed, but if the evidence makes this is impossible, the attorney strives to get the prosecutor to agree to a wet reckless instead of a DUI, which has many advantages. Unlike a typical DUI conviction, it does not involve mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders. Additionally, wet reckless usually involves a shorter jail sentence.

A first-time DUI conviction is punishable by six months in jail; the maximum sentence for wet reckless driving is 90 days. Subsequent DUIs are punishable by one year in jail (more time for a felony conviction), but the limit for wet reckless driving is the same. Similarly, fines and probation for wet reckless are generally less than DUI.

What is a plea bargain?

What exactly is a plea bargain? It’s an agreement between the defense and the prosecutor were the prosecution makes a concession (such as a lesser charge or reduced sentence) in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea.

Wet reckless driving is one of the most common plea bargains utilized in DUI cases. Other reduced charges include "dry reckless," multiple traffic infractions, and "exhibition of speed."

When a DUI defendant bargains down to a “wet reckless,” the defendant will face lighter penalties than if they had been convicted of a standard DUI. Some of the advantages of a wet reckless, include:

  • Lower fines
  • A shorter jail sentence
  • A shorter probation
  • Shorter DUI School
  • May not affect a commercial driver’s license
  • May not affect professional licenses
  • Does not necessarily involve a license suspension

What are the disadvantages of a wet reckless?

Multiple wet reckless charges will not accumulate stronger penalties, but a wet reckless conviction is counted as a "priorable" offense if you are convicted of drunk driving in the future.

This means that if you’re convicted of DUI at a later date, your previous wet reckless allows the court to impose enhanced penalties. Additionally, a wet reckless conviction still allows the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to suspend your license under certain circumstances.

Can I Get a Wet Reckless With a High BAC?

While a California wet reckless is a highly favorable plea bargain for qualified DUI defendants, not everyone will be entitled to one. Generally, prosecutors are more inclined to a reduce a DUI down to a wet reckless under Vehicle Code 23103 and 23103.5 VC when one of the following occurs:

  • The defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was close to .08%, or
  • There are holes in the prosecution’s case against the DUI defendant.

So, if you were pulled over for DUI and your BAC registered around 0.13% or 0.14% and you want to know, “Can I get my DUI reduced to a wet reckless?” it depends on how strong the prosecution’s case is. Your chances of getting the DUI reduced to a wet reckless would be much stronger if it was your first DUI and your BAC was .09%, you had a clean driving record, and you were polite to the officers during the DUI stop.

In contrast, if your BAC was 0.13% or above, or if you’re a repeat DUI offender, the prosecutor may be under political pressure to not be lenient with you. Regardless of your BAC, there still may be holes in the prosecution’s case or other mitigating circumstances that may still work in your favor, leaving a wet reckless as a possible option.

If you are facing DUI charges in Orange County and you’re interested in a wet reckless plea bargain, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free consultation.

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