Wet Reckless vs. DUI charges


Many criminal defense attorneys have the opportunity to plead their clients to a “wet reckless” charge instead of a DUI.

A wet reckless is the first of several reductions of a DUI charge that a person suspected of driving under the influence may take advantage of.  Usually, a wet reckless is offered as a plea bargain when a person’s blood alcohol content is close to 0.08% or when there are holes in the prosecution’s case such that they would rather obtain a conviction of a lesser charge than lose at trial.

If someone pleads guilty to a wet reckless charge, they are pleading guilty to Vehicle Code 23103 which, technically, is a charge of driving recklessly.  However, what makes a charge of Vehicle Code 23103 “wet” is the fact that the prosecutor states for the record that alcohol or drugs were involved with the charge.

There are advantages and disadvantages of pleading to a wet reckless.

Unlike a DUI, there are no mandatory sentencing enhancements for a wet reckless charge. In other words, if you have prior DUI charges within 10 years and you plead guilty to a wet reckless charge, enhancements will not be added to your sentence as they would with DUI charge. On the other hand, a charge of a wet reckless serves as a prior within 10 years for purposes of enhancing a sentence for a subsequent DUI charge.

There is a shorter jail term associated with a wet reckless charge as compared to a charge of driving under the influence. A DUI charge carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail, whereas a wet reckless charge carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. If the court revokes probation because you have committed another crime or otherwise violated probation, the most time you can spend in jail would be 90 days.

With a wet reckless charge, there is not automatic suspension of your license. When someone is found guilty of a first time DUI, and they did not refuse the chemical test, their license is automatically suspended for six months. This is not the case when someone pleads guilty to a wet reckless charge. However, the DMV may still separately suspend your license.  In order for a person who is offered a wet reckless to keep their license, they must win their DMV hearing.

Generally, the probation period for a first time DUI is anywhere from three to five years.  The probation period for a wet reckless is generally one to two years.

The length of court ordered DUI school is shorter under a wet reckless charge. The court on a DUI charge will generally require you to attend a three month DUI school. A wet reckless charge, on the other hand, may only require you to attend a six week program. In some cases, DUI school may not even come with a wet reckless charge.

The fines for a wet reckless charge are much less than the fines associated with a DUI charge.

A person who pleads guilty to a wet reckless charge may be saving money in the amount of fines they’ll have to pay, however that money will likely go to higher insurance premiums. Insurance companies treat DUI charges and wet reckless charges equally. As a consequence, your premiums may increase or your policy may even be cancelled.

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5 Responses to Wet Reckless vs. DUI charges

  1. Dave says:

    Great information. Thanks. helped me in my personal studies of law.

    • josie says:

      On April 27, 2011 I was arrested for a DUI, I was released within an hour. I had a hearing on the phone with the DMV. I said what happened and still had my license suspended. My discovery was issued to me and it had the the results when I took a breathe test. Their reader read 0.08, subject read 0.00 insufficient, I blew twice per the officer. The second result read, their reader read 0.00, subject: 0.00 insufficient. I went to court and was offered the “wet wreckless’ program. I wanted to fight my case and she would not let me fight it and offered the wet wreckless. I went to court on 1-30-14 because I had that warrant. They offered it to me again. I feel I should not go through this process. I plead no contest. Can I file a motion to vacate judgment under penal code 1018. What do you suggest?

  2. Robyn says:

    In 10/2010, I was convicted with a wet-n-wreckles, my alcohol level was a 0.9, I was sentenced 4yrs. formal probation, 4 days community service, 6wks. of wet-n-wreckles classes, and $1000.00 dollars in court fines. My question is on 3/18/2013, I was again pulled over for now an actual DUI, with an alcohol level of a 0.23, and driving with a suspended license. I cannot afford to get an attorney, what is the severity to my situation on a cinerios level. I’m scared that I will maybe have to go to jail, when I would not want that to happen, but i’m scared. What are some of my options if going to jail vs. court fines, costs, probation, ??? conviction status, (misc or felony), community service, and AA classes, etc, do you think the judge would consider giving me these options once again? I was recently hired at a company, I would love to keep, but will I be able to keep it?

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  4. jose mendez says:

    I was not driving while intoxicated or pulled over. I was helping a friend push truck out
    Of mud while intoxicated. Got in truck to put in neutral. I was outside vehicle when police showed up and gave me DUI. Took me to jail and impounded my friends vehicular. Have not gone to court yet. Input please!!

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