Can I Plead to a "Wet Reckless" in California?

Plea bargaining in California drunk driving cases and reducing a DUI to a reckless driving charge.

By , Attorney

In some states, it's possible for a motorist who's accused of driving under the influence (DUI) to "plea bargain" for a lesser charge. When such a plea bargain is for a reckless driving charge, it's sometimes called a "wet reckless."

Plea Bargaining in California DUI Cases

California law doesn't prohibit plea bargaining in DUI cases. There are, however, restrictions. Generally, plea bargaining is allowed in DUI case only when the:

  • evidence is too weak for the prosecution to prove the DUI charge
  • testimony of a key witness can't be obtained, or
  • plea deal wouldn't result in a "substantial change" in the sentence.

However, a prosecutor who agrees to reduce a DUI to a reckless driving charge must explain on the record in court the reason for the reduction. The prosecutor must also state whether the offense involved alcohol or drugs and the facts supporting that conclusion.

California attorneys and judges often use the term "wet reckless" for reckless driving violations that involved drugs or alcohol, and "dry reckless" for violations where intoxicating substances played no part.

Benefits of a Reckless Driving Plea

The benefits of pleading to a reckless driving charge are simple: The penalties for a reckless driving violation are generally less severe than those for a DUI conviction.

But for those convicted of a wet reckless—as opposed to a dry reckless—there are a few additional consequences. First, those convicted of a wet reckless usually have to participate in an alcohol and drug awareness program as a condition of probation. Second, a wet reckless will count as a prior DUI conviction if the motorist is convicted of driving under the influence within ten years following the wet reckless conviction. In other words, the subsequent DUI will be punished as a second rather than a first offense.

Judges have the option of requiring wet reckless offenders to install and maintain an ignition lock device (IID) in their vehicles. If a judge orders an IID, the term must be at least three months with a maximum of several years or more, depending on whether the offender has DUI priors.

Talk to an Attorney

If you've been arrest for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced local DUI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A qualified DUI lawyer can talk to you about what the possibilities are for your case.

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