DUI vs. Wet Reckless Charge: Understanding the Differences

A DUI is a term everybody is familiar with. A wet reckless charge, however, might not carry that same familiarity. Whether you have been charged with a DUI or know someone who has, it can help you to understand the difference between a DUI and a wet reckless charge and what it means for you and your loved one.

What is a DUI

In California, a DUI charge is given out when an individual decides to operate a motor vehicle while they are intoxicated with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater. The first offense is a misdemeanor and can carry up to six months in jail. As an individual racks up more DUI offenses, the jail time, fines, and restrictions increase. After the fourth DUI or if someone is injured, the charge can be classified as a felony.

What is Wet Reckless?

A wet reckless charge is a slang term used to describe a DUI charge which has been reduced to a reckless driving charge under California’s Vehicle Code. The charge will essentially be detailed as a reckless driving charge with an added note that alcohol was involved. This is where the term “wet reckless” comes from.

An individual seeking a wet reckless charge will not automatically be granted it. Instead, an individual will have been charged with a DUI, but then will negotiate with the prosecutor to plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to a wet reckless charge instead. If a judge agrees or a strong case is made for the reduced charge, a judge may hand down a wet reckless conviction.

Advantages of a Wet Reckless Charge

It’s important to keep in mind that a wet reckless charge may seem like another type of DUI charge, but it is not. A wet reckless falls under the category of reckless driving under California law. Because of this, the consequences of a wet reckless are generally less severe than that of a DUI. However, the consequences of a wet reckless should still be considered carefully in order to avoid further consequences that can stack up to those of a DUI. Some of the advantages of receiving a wet reckless in place of a DUI can include the following:

  1. There is no mandatory court-ordered suspension of an individual’s driver’s license. The Department of Motor Vehicles may still have the authority to suspend your driver’s license, however. In some instances, an individual can avoid this by having an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle and stipulated as a restriction on their driver’s license.
  2. A shorter jail sentence. Sentences can range anywhere from five to 90 days.
  3. Lower fines. Fines can range anywhere from $145 to $1000.
  4. A shorter period of probation, usually ranging from one to two years.
  5. The charge will not be recorded on the driver’s criminal record.

While a wet reckless charge does bring with it greater advantages than a DUI, it does come with its own drawbacks as well. The main consequences an individual with a wet reckless can be expected to face include the following:

  • A wet reckless conviction is deemed a “priorable” offense. According to California’s DUI “look back” period, if an individual with a wet reckless is found guilty of a DUI within the next ten years, they will be considered a repeat offender and can face increased penalties.
  • An individual’s car insurance company can also treat a wet reckless as a DUI. This may require an individual to pay a higher car insurance premium. In some cases, a driver could lose their coverage altogether.
  • A DUI arrest will automatically trigger an “administrative per se” (APS) hearing at the DMV. Even if a driver can get their DUI charge dropped to a reckless, they will still need to answer to the APS hearing.
  • California DMV will add two points to a driver’s record. If the violation occurred in a commercial vehicle, 3.5 words will be added.

California driving laws can be complex and difficult to navigate when it comes to DUI convictions. If you or a member of your family has been charged with a DUI in Southern California, reach out to our Glendale law office at McReynolds Vardanyan today to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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