Dry Reckless Explained


What is a “dry reckless”? What are the consequences of pleading to a “dry reckless”?

            If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, you may hear the term “dry reckless” at some point. A “dry reckless” is simply a nickname for a regular “reckless driving” conviction. The word “dry” is used is to distinguish this from a “wet reckless” in that a “dry reckless” is a non-alcohol related reckless driving charge. But, a “dry” is NOT a DUI whereas a “wet” is. Click here for an explanation of a “wet reckless” conviction. In this article we will look at the consequences for a “dry reckless” conviction.


In California, reckless driving is a misdemeanor under Vehicle Code Section 23103. This statute (law) states, “a person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a “dry reckless” outcome on your behalf. Typically, the prosecutor will agree to a “dry reckless” disposition when the prosecutor's case is weak. However, your attorney will likely have to argue with the DA and show them how their case is weak in order to achieve this disposition. Having an experienced DUI attorney in your corner can go a long way to achieving a better outcome.


In California, when you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, there are two separate cases against you. The first case is the criminal case that is handled in the local Superior Court. The second case is the DMV “Administrative Per Se” (APS) hearing. As explained below, a “dry reckless” disposition only resolves the court case and does not directly control the outcome of your DMV APS hearing.

There is no driver's license suspension resulting from a dry reckless plea unless the plea causes you to accumulate too many points on your driving record.  However, your DMV APS hearing will still need to be resolved if you had an alcohol level of .08% or above.  And, you could suffer a license suspension as a result of that hearing.

Criminal Punishment

            If you plead guilty or “no contest” to a “dry reckless”, you should expect to receive the following punishment: (1) a short “jail sentence”; (2) an order to pay fines; (3) two points on your DMV record; and (5) informal probation. 

  1. “Jail Sentence”

A dry reckless conviction carries a maximum jail sentence of 90 days (compared to up to 12 months for a DUI conviction). However, it is extremely unlikely that you will actually serve any time in jail.

In Monterey County, a typical jail sentence on a “dry reckless” is 2-10 days. Frequently, we are able to negotiate zero jail time (other than the brief time already spent in jail following the arrest). Even if you receive a “jail sentence”, you will likely be able to serve that sentence through the sheriff's Work Alternative Program, which is essentially community service.

  1. Fines

Typically, the fine for a “dry reckless” conviction is about half of the fine for a DUI conviction. In Monterey County, you should expect a fine to be about $1,000.

  1. Driver's License “Points”

A “dry reckless” plea will trigger the DMV to add two “negligent operator” points to your DMV record. See DMV's negligent operator point system here.

  1. No DUI School

You do not have to enroll in any DUI school based upon a “dry reckless” conviction. However, if you lose your DMV APS hearing, then you will need to enroll in either the three or nine-month DUI class.  Read here about DUI School.

  1. Not a “Priorable” Offense

When you are charged with a DUI, obtaining a dry reckless is a much-preferred outcome.  This is mostly because it does not go on your record as a DUI like a “wet reckless” does.  In other words, a “dry” is not “priorable” (it does not count as a prior DUI if you happen to get arrested again for DUI in the next ten years).  "Read here about priorability".

  1. Informal Probation

If you plead guilty or no contest to a “dry reckless”, you will be placed on “informal, non-reporting probation”, usually for three years, after the conviction. Although you will not have to report to a probation officer, you must not violate the terms of your probation. Typically, in Monterey County, the terms of probation for a “dry reckless” conviction will include that you “obey all laws”, pay the fines ordered by the court, and serve your :jail sentence”. If you violate the terms of your probation, the judge can re-sentence you to the full possible jail sentence (90 days for a “dry reckless”). However, if you successfully complete the terms of your informal probation, you can then petition the court to dismiss the conviction from your record.

As previously mentioned, a “dry” does not count as a prior DUI offense.  Therefore, if you are again charged with DUI in the next ten years, the prosecutor will not be able to charge your “dry reckless” as a prior offense.  Therefore, in the new case, you will be charged with a first offense DUI only.

As a point of comparison, a “wet reckless” is a priorable offense and will typically include additional terms for informal probation such as “no driving with any amount of alcohol (or drugs) in your system” and “consenting to field sobriety tests (including a pre-arrest breath test or "PAS") if you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI.” In general, the terms of probation are less onerous for a “dry reckless” than they are for a “wet reckless”.

A “dry reckless” conviction does not automatically trigger a suspension of your driver's license. However, your license can still be suspended by the DMV in your APS case, or if you have accumulated too many points on your driving record.

DMV Punishment

            As stated above, a “dry reckless” conviction will automatically trigger the DMV to add two points to your DMV record. And, a “dry reckless” conviction in court does not resolve the DMV APS case. If you lose the DMV APS case, your license will be suspended, thus requiring you to enroll in DUI school and get an SR-22 on file before you can get a restricted license.

Therefore, even if you are offered a “dry reckless” in court, you should consult with a DUI attorney to discuss your chances of winning your DMV APS case. 

(REMINDER: You must request the DMV APS hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest.  We will do this for you.  If you fail to request the APS hearing in that timeframe, your license will automatically be suspended by DMV.)

            The penalties for a “dry reckless” are less than the penalties for a DUI and a “wet reckless” conviction. The fines, length of “jail sentence” and terms of probation are less than the punishments for a DUI and a “wet reckless”. Additionally, a “dry reckless” does not cause a license suspension.

Moreover, a “dry reckless” conviction does not require any DUI school, which are required with “wet reckless” and DUI convictions. Lastly, a “dry reckless” does not count as a “priorable offense”. Therefore, if you take a “dry reckless” deal and are subsequently arrested and charged with a DUI, that new DUI will be treated as a first offense.

If you have been arrested for DUI, you should consult with a DUI attorney right away to evaluate your case. An experienced DUI attorney may be able to negotiate a deal (such as a “dry reckless” disposition) without having to go to trial. Call us today for a free consultation!

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