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DUI vs. Wet Reckless in California

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in California and obtaining a not-guilty verdict appears out of reach, it is possible to “plea bargain” for a lesser charge with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. When a DUI is pleaded down to a reckless driving charge, it is known as “wet reckless,” which means a reckless driving involving alcohol and/or drugs.

In general, a wet reckless plea is allowed when:

  • The defendant is facing his/her first DUI offense
  • The evidence against the defendant is too weak for the prosecutor to convict
  • The plea deal wouldn’t lead to a significant change in the sentence

If the prosecution agrees to reduce a DUI charge to wet reckless, they must explain—in court—the reason why the defendant was given the reduction. In addition, the court must also approve the plea agreement.

The following are the benefits of a wet reckless plea:

  • Shorter jail term – A conviction for wet reckless results in a maximum 90-day jail sentence. By contrast, a DUI conviction is punishable by a jail term of up to six months for a first offense.
  • Shorter probation period – Probation for a wet reckless charge in California typically lasts between one and two years, while a DUI conviction may lead to a three- to five-year probation period. However, individuals convicted of wet reckless will be required to participate in an alcohol and drug awareness program as a probationary condition.
  • Lower total fines – Although the maximum fine for either a DUI or a wet reckless charge is $1,000, when you add “penalty assessments” imposed by the court, a fine for a DUI will cost a total of up to $3,000. On the other hand, fines for a wet reckless will cost about half as much.
  • No driver’s license suspension – A wet reckless conviction will not result in a court-ordered license suspension, while a conviction of a first-time DUI can lead to a driver’s license suspension of up to six months. However, defendants facing either charge may still serve an administrative suspension.

Remember, if you are convicted of a second DUI offense within ten years, a wet reckless charge will count as a prior DUI conviction. A second DUI conviction is punishable by a maximum one-year jail sentence, probation period of up to five years, fines of up to $1,000 (plus assessment penalties), and driver’s license suspension for up to two years.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Encino, contact the Law Offices of Scott R. Spindel today at (818) 797-9212 and request a free consultation.