In speaking with many people who have been charged with a DUI throughout the course of my career, it became very apparent early on that there were a lot of misconceptions as to exactly what a “wet reckless” actually was and what it entails.
The “wet reckless” is the first of several reductions that can be offered by a prosecutor in a California DUI case. A wet reckless is usually offered when the blood alcohol content of a DUI defendant is close to 0.08 percent or the prosecutor realizes that their case leaves something to be desired. Rather than risk going to trial and losing, prosecutors offer the wet reckless to secure the conviction.
So we know what the benefit is for the prosecutor. What’s in it for the DUI defendant?
First off, it’s not a DUI conviction. When someone pleads guilty or no contest to a wet reckless, they’re actually pleading guilty or no contest to California Vehicle Code section 23103 pursuant to 23103.5. These codes essentially provide that a person is actually pleading guilty or no contest to a charge of reckless driving involving alcohol.
The wet reckless is unique in that it cannot be charged, but only offered as a reduction of a California DUI.
Unlike a DUI, there are no mandatory sentencing enhancements for a wet reckless conviction. Following a first-time DUI conviction, each subsequent DUI conviction within a 10-year period carries enhanced mandatory minimum jail sentences; 96 hours for a second DUI, 120 for a third. However, if a subsequent DUI charge is eventually reduced to a wet reckless, there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence.
Having said that, a wet reckless does, however, count as a “prior” to enhance the mandatory sentencing enhancements for subsequent DUIs. In other words, if a person is convicted of a wet reckless and then subsequently convicted of a DUI within 10 years, the wet reckless can be used to make the DUI a “2nd,” thus providing for a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 96 hours.
A wet reckless carries a lesser jail sentence that a DUI. A California DUI carries a maximum six-month jail sentence, whereas a wet reckless carries a maximum 90-day maximum jail sentence.
There is no automatic suspension of a driver’s license with a wet reckless conviction. When someone is found guilty of a California DUI, their license is automatically suspended. This is not the case when someone pleads guilty or no contest to a wet reckless. Although there may be no suspension stemming from the conviction, the DMV may still issue a suspension if the person loses their DMV hearing. Therefore, in order for someone who is eventually convicted of a wet reckless to keep their license, they must also win their DMV hearing.
The wet reckless also usually carries a shorter probation period, a smaller amount in fines and fees, and a shorter DUI school.
The California wet reckless is often a good alternative to a California DUI conviction, and now, at least, you’ll know exactly what it is.