Introduction

A wet reckless is a charge that is the result of plea bargaining in a driving under the influence case (DUI).  A person cannot be arrested for a wet reckless, but rather, must be offered this charge by the District Attorney’s Office.  Wet reckless offers usually occur where there is a low blood alcohol content, a problem with the DUI investigation, or the DA foresees difficulties in proving a part of his or her case.

Often improperly referred to as a “wet-and-reckless,” the wet reckless carries significantly less harsh penalties compared to a driving under the influence conviction (see below).

The Statute(s)

When a District Attorney allows a person to plead no contest or guilty to a wet reckless, the code section referenced will be colloquially referred to as a “23103 per 23103.5.”  The latter statute refers directly to the former and explains how the court process works when accepting a plea to a wet reckless (see below).

Vehicle Code § 23103

(a)  A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

(b)  A person who drives a vehicle in an offstreet parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

(c) Except as otherwise provided in Section 40008, persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one hundred forty-five dollars ($145) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104 or 23105. (Amended by Stats. 2010, Ch. 685, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2011.)

Vehicle Code § 23103.5

 (a)  If the prosecution agrees to a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a charge of a violation of Section 23103 in satisfaction of, or as a substitute for, an original charge of a violation of Section 23152, the prosecution shall state for the record a factual basis for the satisfaction or substitution, including whether or not there had been consumption of an alcoholic beverage or ingestion or administration of a drug, or both, by the defendant in connection with the offense. The statement shall set forth the facts that show whether or not there was a consumption of an alcoholic beverage or the ingestion or administration of a drug by the defendant in connection with the offense.

The Elements

A conviction for a wet reckless is always the product of a plea bargain.  It is not something that can be charged.  It is usually the result of a deal made between the District Attorney and criminal defense lawyer because of some deficiency with the DA’s case.

Penalties

The benefits of being convicted of a wet reckless rather than a DUI are substantial.  The following is a list of the punishments associated with a wet reckless.  Compare it to the list for a first offense DUI conviction below.

Wet Reckless Potential Punishment

  • No mandatory minimum jail time (even if you have prior DUIs)
  • May require a 6-week alcohol education class or 3-month program
  • Less fines and fees compared to a DUI
  • Ordinarily 1 to 2 years of probation
  • No court imposed license suspension (DMV may suspend license independently)
  • Can be used as prior offense for increased punishment for future DUIs within 10 years. But cannot be used as a second conviction of a DUI if you have a prior DUI.

DUI Potential Punishment

  • Ordinarily 48 hours in jail (unless alternative sentencing available)
  • 3 month first offender DUI school
  • $2,000.00 or more in fines and fees
  • Minimum 3 years of probation
  • 6-month license suspension (or longer)
  • Can be used as prior offense for enhanced punishment for future DUIs within 10 years.

Defenses

See Law Offices of Matthew S. Luzaich DUI Defense page

Miscellaneous Information

Oftentimes a wet reckless offer by the District Attorney’s Office is the result of a weak case against the client and/ or a low BAC.  Generally, the lower the BAC the more likely the DA will offer a wet reckless during pretrial negotiations.  A skilled DUI Defense Lawyer will be able to get the best results in these pretrial negotiations and may be able to convince the prosecutor that his or her case rests on evidence that will be difficult to prove the person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Where the charges are particularly difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, it is possible to settle the case for a “dry” reckless.  This offense is Vehicle Code § 23103(a), and carries even lesser penalties than a wet reckless.

What You Should Do

Call DUI Defense Lawyer Matthew Luzaich for a free consultation regarding your DUI case.  He will discuss the facts of your case, the strengths and weaknesses of it, any defenses available, and possible outcomes including whether your case may be settled for a wet reckless.  Every case is different, and calling a Criminal Defense Lawyer today to discuss how the law applies to the facts of your unique case is a wise decision.  You have nothing to lose, call today.

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