The goal in many DUI cases is to avoid all of the minimum penalties that accompany a DUI conviction. Since those minimum penalties are required by statute, the only way to avoid them is to get the DUI case completely dismissed or to get it reduced to a less serious criminal charge such as reckless driving.
Over time, a compromise developed in which the prosecutor would agree to offer a plea bargain deal by reducing the DUI to reckless driving. The process was so common, that many complained that for a second DUI arrest, the defendant was able to avoid increased penalties if convicted of DUI for the second offense.
Today, the prosecutor will often seek to avoid that consequences by offering a “wet reckless” which is short for “wet reckless driving.”
Attorney for the Wet Reckless Plea in San Francisco, CA
The DUI Defense attorneys in San Francisco at Ticket Crushers understand the importance of this plea bargain option after a DUI arrest. The plea bargain allows the charge to be dismissed (which is often better than risking a conviction for DUI at trial) but still allows the prosecution to use it as a “prior DUI” conviction if the driver gets arrested again for DUI.
Most people who agree to this disposition are not actually guilty of reckless driving, but enter a plea to avoid the full force of the DUI penalties. For these reasons, a wet reckless is often considered to be a hybrid of “dry reckless driving” and DUI that minimum penalties and consequences that fall in between the two offenses.
If you were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then contact an experienced San Francisco DUI Defense attorney to discuss your options. The best option is getting an outright dismissal of the charges, particularly when there is insufficient evidence or when the DUI arrest results from an illegal stop, detention or arrest.
Only after it is determined that an outright dismissal before trial is unlikely, should the defendant and criminal defense attorney consider a plea bargain to a wet reckless. Any plea to a criminal offense such as reckless driving comes with consequences that last a lifetime. If you are not guilty of DUI, then a better result is filing pre-trial motions to ask the court to dismiss the charges or going to trial to obtain a “not guilty” verdict.
Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Ticket Crushers to discuss your options and the possibility of resolving your DUI case for a wet reckless in order to avoid a trial in San Francisco County, CA. Call 1 (866) 842-5384 today.
Call 1 (866) 842-5384 today.
Consequences of California’s Wet Reckless Plea Bargain
California Vehicle Code § 23103.5 officially recognizes that even if the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is reduced to “reckless driving,” it shall count as a “prior” DUI conviction if the prosecutor relates on the record that the reckless driving was accompanied by the consumption of drugs or alcohol by the driver. In these cases, the prosecutor and defense attorney will often stipulate at the time of the plea that “alcohol or drugs” were a contributing factor.
In People v. Forrester, 67 Cal. Rptr. 3d 740, 742 n.2 (Cal. Ct. App. 2007), the court referred to a conviction for reckless driving involving the consumption of alcohol referenced in Section 23103.5 of the California Vehicle Code as a “wet reckless.” See also Walker v. Kiousis, 114 Cal. Rptr. 2d 69, 74.
It is important to remember that also a law enforcement officer can arrest the driver for reckless driving and/or DUI, the officer cannot arrest someone for “wet reckless.” Likewise, the prosecutor can charge the driver with DUI or reckless driving, but not with a “wet reckless.” For this reasons, the driver is never brought to trial for the crime of “wet reckless.”
The penalties for a first offense of “wet reckless” is described in CAL. VEH. CODE §§ 23103(c), 23103.5(e) and the penalties for a DUI conviction are described in CAL. VEH. CODE §§ 23536, 23538.
The Advantages to Entering a Plea to “Wet Reckless”
The advantages to entering a plea for “wet reckless” is avoiding many of the minimum mandatory penalties that come with a DUI conviction. A “wet reckless” disposition does not necessarily come with a driver’s license suspension.
Also, the plea bargain in a “wet reckless” case often involves a shorter term of probation, a shorter and less expensive DUI school program, lower fines, and a shorter term of probation.
Keep in mind that although the court will not necessarily impose a driver’s license suspension in a “wet reckless” case, the California DMV will still impose a driver’s license suspension if:
- you lose your DMV administrative hearing; or
- your breath / blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08% or above.
The Disadvantage of Entering a Plea to “Wet Reckless”
The biggest disadvantage of entering a plea to “wet reckless” is that you are not receiving the best possible resolution of the case which involves one of the following dispositions:
- the prosecutor drops all charges before trial;
- the judge dismisses all charges before trial as a result of granting a motion to suppress evidence or a motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence as a matter of law; or
- you obtain a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
The next biggest disadvantage to entering a plea of guilty or no contest to “wet reckless” is that it counts as a prior DUI conviction in the event you are arrested for a second or subsequent offense of DUI in California (although it will not necessarily be treated as a prior offense if you are arrested for DUI in another state).
In other words, if you are arrested for a second offense of DUI in California, the prosecutor and the court will treat the “wet reckless” case the same as a prior DUI conviction for sentencing purposes when treating you like a repeat offender. Keep in mind that even a second or subsequent DUI arrest can be reduced to a wet reckless.
In 2009, the California Legislature added a requirement that if you were convicted of “wet reckless” and had a prior “wet reckless” that occurred within ten years, then you must attend a nine-month DUI school program (although this is better than a 18-month or 30-month DUI school program that would be required after a DUI conviction under the same circumstances).
Another problem with entering a plea to a “wet reckless” is that your insurance company can still raise your insurance rates for years to come or cancel your policy altogether when it comes up for renewal.
Also, because “reckless driving” is a criminal offense, a plea can trigger disciplinary action with your employer, especially for individuals that hold a special license to practice their profession. Those professionals would include health care professional (including a physician or nurse), lawyer, educator, law enforcement officer or member of the military. For these individuals, the only way to minimize these professional consequences is to fight for an outright dismissal of the charges or go to trial for a “not guilty” verdict.
California’s Wet Reckless Program– Visit the website of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to learn more about the wet reckless program for men and women convicted of a reckless driving offense with a measurable amount of alcohol in their blood or breath who must complete a 12-hour DUI alcohol and drug education program. The objectives of the DUI program in San Francisco is to reduce the number of repeat DUI offenses and to provide participants an opportunity to address problems related to the use of alcohol or other drugs. DHCS licenses DUI programs throughout San Francisco County and all of California’s 58 counties.