What is a “wet reckless”? What are the consequences associated with pleading to a “wet reckless”?
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, you will probably hear the term “wet reckless” at some point. In California, “wet reckless” is the informal name of a crime that can sometimes be plead to instead of a pleading to a DUI. In this article, we will address what a “wet reckless” is, what the consequences are of taking a “wet reckless” deal, and how these consequences compare to a DUI conviction.
“WET RECKLESS” EXPLAINED
A “wet reckless” is a negotiated plea. Specifically, “wet reckless” is the term given to a plea whereby the prosecutor originally charges a DUI (under Vehicle Code Section 23152), but later drops those charges in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty (or “no contest”) to a charge of reckless driving (under Vehicle Code Section 23103). The “wet” in “wet reckless” means that there is an acknowledgement that the reckless driving involved alcohol and/or other drugs. This disposition is authorized by Vehicle Code Section 23103.5.
You cannot be arrested for or charged with a “wet reckless”; it is not a stand-alone crime. It is exclusively a negotiated plea. Essentially, it is a disposition in between a reckless driving conviction and a DUI conviction. Think of it as a reduced-penalty DUI.
“WET RECKLESS” CONSEQUENCES
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 traditional criminal case that is handled in the local Superior Court. The second case is the DMV “Administrative Per Se” (APS) hearing in which your driver's license is at stake. As explained below, a “wet reckless” disposition only resolves the court case and does not control the outcome of your DMV APS hearing.
If you plead guilty or “no contest” to a “wet 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; (4) an order to enroll in drinking and driving classes; and (5) informal probation in which you do not report to anyone and you do not have a probation officer.
- “Jail Sentence”
A “wet reckless” conviction carries a maximum jail sentence of 90 days (compared to up to 12 months for a DUI conviction). However, it is very unlikely that you will actually serve any time in jail at all.
In Monterey County, a typical jail sentence on a “wet reckless” is less than 10 days. Frequently, we are able to negotiate for our clients to serve no additional jail time at all (other than the brief time in jail spent 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.
Typically, the fine for a “wet 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 to $1,500.
- Driver's License “Points”
A “wet reckless” plea will trigger the DMV to add two “negligent operator” points to your DMV record. This is the same as a regular reckless driving conviction.
- DUI School
If you plead guilty or no contest to a “wet reckless”, you will have to complete “DUI School”. If you have no prior DUI or “wet reckless” convictions, you will only need to complete a 6-week class. For comparison, a first-time DUI conviction requires a 3-month class. Read here about DUI school programs.
- Informal Probation
If you plead guilty or no contest to a “wet reckless”, you will be placed on “informal probation” for three years after the conviction. Although you do not have to report to a probation officer, you must be careful not to violate the terms of your probation. Typically, in Monterey County, the terms of probation for a “wet reckless” conviction will include “obey all laws”, “don't drive with any amount of alcohol (or drugs) in your system”, and “consent to field sobriety tests (including a pre-arrest breath test) if you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI”. If you violate the terms of your probation, the judge can re-sentence you to the maximum possible jail sentence (90 days for a “wet reckless”). However, if you successfully complete the terms of your informal probation, you can then petition the court to dismiss your conviction under Penal Code 1203.4.
As you can see, a “wet reckless” conviction does not 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. You can contact DMV to obtain your "H6" printout which will tell you how many points you have on your record. See DMV's point system here.
As stated above, a “wet reckless” conviction will automatically trigger the DMV to add two points to your driver's license. However, a “wet reckless” conviction in court does not resolve the DMV APS case. If you lose the DMV APS case, you will suffer a license suspension (in addition to the other punishment that comes with a DMV APS loss.) Therefore, even if you are offered a “wet 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.)
“Wet Reckless” is a “Priorable Offense”
One of the biggest differences between a “wet reckless” and a regular reckless driving (or “dry reckless) conviction is that a “wet reckless” counts as a “priorable offense”. In California, many crimes carry increased punishments if you are convicted of the same or similar offenses multiple times. These crimes are called “priorable offenses”. In California, DUI's are priorable offenses for 10 years. This means that if you are convicted of multiple DUI's within 10 years, you will suffer greater punishment for each DUI. Read more here about multiple offense DUIs.
For the purposes of “priorability”, a “wet reckless” counts exactly the same as a DUI. For example, if you are convicted of a “wet reckless” and then six years later you are convicted of a DUI, the DUI will be punished as though it is your second DUI. Likewise, if you are convicted of a DUI and subsequently plea to a “wet reckless”, that is technically a second DUI conviction. But, your penalties will be less because the second offense was reduced to a “wet reckless.” Importantly, if you have a prior “wet reckless” conviction, the prosecutor may be less likely to offer you a “wet reckless” on a second or third offense.
“WET RECKLESS” COMPARISON TO DUI
The penalties for a “wet reckless” are less than the penalties for a DUI conviction. As explained above, the amount of fines, length of jail sentences, and length of alcohol education classes for a “wet reckless” are about half of the punishments for a DUI. Additionally, a “wet reckless” may be viewed more favorably by professional licensing boards and employers.
Thus, if you have been arrested for a 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 “wet reckless” disposition) without having to go to trial. Call us today for a free consultation!