Difference Between a DUI and a Wet Reckless

When it comes to driving under the influence (DUI), a criminal defense attorney’s goal is to secure the best possible resolution on behalf of their client. Depending on the facts and circumstances involved in a case, this may mean a dismissal of charges or a reduction in charges that results in less severe penalties and impact on a person’s life. One possible way to secure a successful resolution is pursue a reduction in DUI charges to a wet reckless.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Ventura DUI attorneys work diligently to explore the unique facts involved in our clients’ cases, and devise customized defense strategies that protect their rights, freedoms, and futures. Although reducing a DUI to a wet reckless is more difficult in some counties than in others, such as in Ventura County, it is an option we explore, especially during plea bargaining. To help you understand the difference between a wet reckless and a standard DUI charge, we have put together the following information:

  • A reduced charge– A wet reckless is not a crime for which you can be arrested. However, it is a separate and distinct charge from DUI in California’s vehicle code, and it is technically known as a “dry reckless.” When convicted of this crime (VC 23103.5), court records will show whether alcohol or drugs were involved, which is why it is typically referred to as a “wet reckless” in the context of DUI cases.
  • Less severe penalties – Wet reckless convictions pose less severe penalties than those in DUI cases. For example, individuals convicted of a wet reckless face less potential terms of imprisonment in county jail (90 day maximum sentence compared to a 6-month maximum sentence in first time DUI cases), as well as lower fines, shorter court ordered classes, and shorter terms of probation (1-2 years compared to 3-5 years). Depending on the circumstances, drivers may not face a driver’s license suspension as they would when charged with DUI.
  • Multiple charges – For individuals with prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, reducing a new multiple DUI charge to a wet reckless can also result in shorter mandatory minimum sentences. For example, California law requires a minimum jail sentence of at least 30 days, depending on the facts. When a DUI is reduced to a wet reckless, that mandatory minimum is 5 days, regardless of how many prior DUI convictions a defendant has.

While there are distinct differences between a DUI and a wet reckless, there are some similarities that you should know. This includes the fact that a wet reckless conviction still counts as a prior DUI offense. If you were to be arrested for a new DUI and have a wet reckless conviction within the past 10 years, it will be viewed as a standard DUI conviction for the purpose of sentencing. As such, you can face multiple DUI charges and the elevated penalties that come with them. The DMV may also choose to impose a license suspension, especially if your blood alcohol level was above the legal limit (.08). Remember, you still have the opportunity to protect your driving privileges by requesting an administrative hearing with the DMV. Additionally, a wet reckless conviction may be viewed in the same manner as a DUI by insurance companies, which could result in higher monthly premiums.

Reducing a DUI to a wet reckless may prove beneficial to accused individuals, but it is not always an option. Ultimately, the unique facts of your case will determine whether you may be able to reach a plea bargain with prosecutors, whether your charges can be fought in their entirety to pursue a dismissal, or whether you will need to fight the standard DUI charges levied against you. Our legal team offers free and confidential case evaluations in order to help clients fully understand their rights and available options.

To discuss a DUI charge in Ventura County or anywhere in the surrounding areas of Southern California, contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP for a FREE consultation.