Los Angeles DUI Attorneys Pleading to a “Wet Reckless” as aReduced Charge in a DUI Case California Vehicle Code Sections 23103 and 23103.5 VC
What is a Wet Reckless?
Simply put, a Wet Reckless is a reduced charge that the California Legislature created as a plea bargain tool for prosecutors to use in DUI cases. Rather than pleading guilty to and being convicted of DUI, a defendant will plead guilty to reckless driving involving alcohol, also known as a “Wet Reckless.” Whether pleading to a wet reckless is a good plea bargain depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. But, what is almost always true is getting convicted of a wet reckless is usually always a better outcome than getting convicted of a straight DUI. Now, there are multiple reasons why that may be the case, but the two our firm sees over and over again as the most important to our clients are that a conviction for a wet reckless (1) does not carry a mandatory court ordered license suspension, which means that if you or your attorney won your DMV hearing your license would not get suspended at all, (2) nor does itrequire the mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in every vehicle you own.
In this article we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of pleading guilty to a wet reckless as a reduced charge in a DUI case, which DUI cases typically get reduced to a wet reckless, and how having an experienced DUI attorney who knows how to attack DUI cases can help you avoid the harsh effects of being convicted of a DUI, such as having your license suspended and having to install an IID in every vehicle you own.
Overview of California DUI Laws
In California,In order to convict a person of DUI, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drove a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both (see DUI regardless of BAC); or, that the accused drove a vehicle with 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in their blood (see DUI with a BAC of .08% or more).
DUI is a very serious crime in California. In addition to criminal penalties such as possible jail time and fines, getting stopped for DUI puts your driving privilege in jeopardy. You need an experienced lawyer on your side in these cases not just because the law is confusing, but because it has a time limit. In California, you have 10 days to request a DMV hearing after being arrested for a DUI. If you don’t request a hearing in that time, your license will be suspended for up to one year (see Saving your License after a DUI Arrest/Winning your DMV Hearing). Additionally, if you’re convicted of even a first time DUI in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, or Tulare County, you will automatically be required to install a certified Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in each vehicle that you own (see Will I be Required to Install an IID if I’m Convicted of DUI).
Many people facing DUI charges are afraid of losing their driver’s license and having to install an IID to get it back. In Southern California, this is an honest fear. More than just about any place on earth, people who live in the Los Angeles area need a car. We drive to work. We drive kids to school. We drive to run errands. For most people, there isn’t a day that goes by that doesn’t have a good chunk of it spent behind the wheel. Yet, those facing the threat of losing their license and having to install an IID in their vehicle may be able to avoid those horrible outcomes by pleading to a “Wet Reckless” as a reduced charge in a DUI case.
Therefore, if you or a loved one has been charged with DUI in Los Angeles, having an experienced and aggressive Los Angeles DUI attorney fighting for you may mean the difference between freedom and prison, between keeping and losing your license, and between driving with or without an Ignition Interlock Device in your car. At Lewin Law Group, [our team of DUI attorneys/our founder, Chad Lewin has over 21 years of experience successfully defending clients from DUI charges. If, after reading our comprehensive analysis of California’s Wet Reckless laws below, you have questions or would like to speak to a Los Angeles DUI attorney, call attorney Chad Lewin/the attorneys at Lewin Law Group immediately for a FREE, CONFIDENTIAL consultation at (888) 546-5394. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.
California Wet Reckless Plea Bargain Examined
In California, Vehicle Code Sections 23103 and 23103.5 create the much sought after a reduced charge of a wet reckless. In fact, the statutory language of Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 states that the California wet reckless offense was created specifically as a plea bargain tool to be used in DUI cases. Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC (“Wet Reckless” law) states: “(a) If the prosecution agrees to a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a charge of a violation of Section 23103 [“dry reckless”] in satisfaction of, or as a substitute for, an original charge of a violation of Section 23152 [California DUI], the prosecution shall state for the record a factual basis for the satisfaction or substitution, including whether or not there had been the consumption of an alcoholic beverage or ingestion or administration of a drug, or both, by the defendant in connection with the offense.”
“If the Prosecution Agrees”
Of the entire text of Vehicle Code Section 21303.5, the first four words of the statute “if the prosecution agrees” may be the most important to a person who’s facing a DUI. The statute clearly states that the prosecutor has the ultimate discretion to allow a defendant charged with DUI to plead to the reduced charge of reckless driving. In fact, Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 was enacted to help prosecutors obtain convictions in “tough” or “close” DUI cases.
Which DUI’s get reduced to a Wet Reckless?
From the language of the statute, any DUI where the prosecutor agrees to the wet reckless can be reduced. Sometimes this occurs simply because the prosecutor’s office has too many cases and wants to avoid a jury trial or your attorney was able to convince them to help you avoid losing your license and/or having to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Generally, though, prosecutors are more likely to offer a wet reckless on DUI cases that are “tough” or “close.” DUI cases are “tough” or “close” when one or more of the following apply:
- Your BAC was very close to the legal limit of .08%.
- The police committed some type of procedural defects, such as incorrectly administering the field sobriety tests, the onsite breath test (PAS), or the post-arrest chemical blood or breath test (see Title 17 Violations in DUI Cases).
- You won your DMV hearing (see Saving your License after a DUI Arrest/Winning your DMV Hearing).
- The arresting officer had one or more complaints regarding falsifying evidence or being dishonest on their personnel record (see Obtaining a Peace Officer’s Personnel Record through a Pitchess Motion).
- You were pulled over for a minor traffic violation rather than an accident or a severe traffic violation.
Benefits of Pleading to a California Wet Reckless
Below are some of the benefits of a “wet reckless” charge reduction from a DUI:
No Mandatory License Suspension as a Result of ConvictionAs mentioned above, a wet reckless does not carry a mandatory driver’s license suspension that a DUI conviction would trigger.
- Under Vehicle Code Section 13352 VC, a first time DUI conviction would result in a 6 month license suspension. Additionally, your license will be suspended for 2 years for a second DUI conviction and 3 years for a third DUI conviction. Yet, a wet reckless plea bargain does not automatically carry the above mandatory license suspensions that a DUI conviction in criminal court would. This means that, if you are able to obtain a wet reckless plea bargain in your criminal case and you prevail at your DMV Hearing, your license will not be suspended at all.
No Mandatory Requirement to Install an Ignition Interlock Device in all your Vehicles
- Under Vehicle Code Section 23700 (also known as the “First-time DUI IID Pilot Program”), if you’re convicted of even a first time DUI in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, or Tulare County, you will automatically be required to install a certified Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in each vehicle that you own. The IID requirement will get triggered along with the mandatory license suspension upon being convicted for DUI and, generally, must be satisfied before a defendant can get their license back from the DMV. Lastly, this pilot program will be going in effect throughout the entire state of California within the next few years. This IID pilot program, implemented in 2010, is one of the major reasons why a wet reckless plea bargain has become so important to those charged with DUI. No one wants to have to suffer through the embarrassment of having to blow into a device just to start your car and then periodically blowing into the device while driving to keep your car operating properly. A wet reckless is especially important for those who already know they lost their DMV hearing, because it means the difference between serving that suspension with or without an IID in their vehicle.
Less Severe Criminal Penalties
- In addition to possibly avoiding a license suspension and installation of an IID, a wet reckless also carries much less severe criminal penalties than a conviction for DUI.
The following are a few examples of how the criminal penalties for a wet reckless are less severe than a DUI:
- Shorter Maximum Jail Sentence: The maximum county jail sentence for a wet reckless is 90 days , whereas a conviction for DUI carries a maximum 6 month jail sentence for a first offense and up to 1 year for a second or third DUI conviction. The shorter maximum jail sentence means that a person who violates their probation on a wet reckless conviction is looking at much less jail time than a person who violates their probation for a DUI conviction.
- You May be able to avoid Mandatory Jail time if you have prior DUIsUnder the Vehicle Code, a person convicted of either a second DUI or a third DUI faces mandatory jail time. In contrast, a person convicted of a wet reckless can avoid mandatory jail time, as long as they are granted probation, despite how many prior DUI convictions they may have.
- Shorter Mandatory DUI School: A first time DUI conviction carries a mandatory 3-month alcohol program, whereas a first time wet reckless conviction may include a six-week alcohol program, if at all.
- Lesser fines: Defendants convicted of a wet reckless typically pay half the fines they would have had they been convicted of a DUI. This typically results in a savings of about $1,000-$1,500.
- Less Stigma: A wet reckless conviction may not negatively impact your employment or professional licenses as much as a DUI conviction could.
What a Wet Reckless Cannot Avoid
Under California law, there are still a few negative outcomes that a plea to a wet reckless may not be able to avoid.
A Wet Reckless is “Priorable”1.
- A Wet Reckless is “Priorable” Under Vehicle Code Section 23540 VC, if you are convicted of any subsequent DUIs within ten years of being convicted of your wet reckless, your wet reckless conviction will count against you as a prior DUI and you will be treated in criminal court as a repeat offender.
Your License May Still get Suspended
- As discussed above, a wet reckless, by itself, may not be enough to save your license. While it would help you avoid the mandatory license suspension that occurs as a result of being convicted of a DUI in court, you may still lose your license if you lose your DMV administrative hearing. Since there are two ways to lose your license, losing your DMV hearing and getting convicted of a DUI in court, you must avoid both of those outcomes to prevent you from losing your license at all. A plea to a wet reckless is only half the puzzle. The other half is prevailing at your DMV Hearing (see Saving your License after a DUI Arrest/Winning your DMV Hearing).
Your Insurance Rates May Still increase
- Your car insurance company may still treat your wet reckless conviction like a DUI, which could cause your rates to go up.
Driving with a BAC of .08% or higher(Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC)
This is the “per se” definition of California DUI. Under Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC, it is a crime for any person to drive a vehicle with a BAC of .08%. The penalties are identical to those of a violation of 23152(a) above, but the elements of the crime and available defenses are very different.
For more information, please see our page on DUI with a BAC of .08% or more.
Driving under the influence regardless of BAC (Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC)
This is the “subjective” definition of California DUI. Under Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC, it is a crime for any person who is “under the influence” of any alcoholic beverage, regardless of that person’s BAC, to drive a vehicle. The penalties are identical to those of a violation of Section 23152(b) VC above, but the elements of the crime and available defenses are very different.
For more information, please see our page on DUI regardless of BAC.
Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) (Vehicle Code Section 23152(e) VC)
Driving under the influence of alcohol is not the only way to get a DUI. Under Vehicle Code Section 23152(e), it is a crime for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle. There are many complex restrictions regarding driving under the influence of drugs, even legal over the counter drugs.
For more information, please see our page on DUID Driving under the influence of drugs.
Felony DUI (Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC)
As mentioned above, there are three circumstances where a person can be charged with felony DUI. Each type of felony DUI has different elements and available defenses.
For more information, please see our pages on Felony DUI based on prior convictions, Felony DUI causing injury or death, and Felony DUI based on prior felony DUI conviction.
Underage driving with a BAC of .01% or higher(Vehicle Code Section 23136 VC)
This is the least criminal DUI charge. Being charged with Vehicle Code Section 23136 isn’t technically the same as being charged with a crime. This is because drivers with a BAC between .01% and .05% aren’t legally drunk. Also, common medicines that contain alcohol can leave your BAC over .01%. The only penalty for this charge is a one year license suspension.
For more information, please see our page on Underage DUI.
Underage Driving with a BAC of .05% or Higher (Vehicle Code Section 23140 VC)
This is the most common underage DUI charge. Because anyone who gets caught with a BAC of .08% gets charged as an adult. This is the charge that really means “Underage DUI.” This charge won’t lead to jail time. But, an underage DUI conviction will automatically lead to a one year license suspension and a fine. Drivers 18 to 21 years old charged with DUI also have to attend a mandatory alcohol education program for at least three months.
For more information, please see our page on Underage DUI.
Contact a DUI Attorney at Lewin Law Group
Our Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys have a long track record of success in DUI cases. Without an experienced and aggressive attorney fighting for you, your conviction could result in the loss of your license and freedom and the destruction of your future. If you’ve been charged with DUI in California, time is of the essence! Every minute you wait matters, so call attorney Chad Lewin at Lewin Law Group immediately for a FREE, CONFIDENTIAL consultation at (888) 546-5394. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you or your loved ones.
- Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23700 VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 VC
- Vehicle Code Section 13352 VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC
- Vehicle Code Sections 23536, 23540, and 23546 VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23540 VC
- Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC.
- Vehicle Code Section 23136.
- Vehicle Code Section 23140.