“Wet reckless driving” is a lesser charge than DUI, and in some cases a DUI charge can be reduced to a wet reckless. This is generally a good thing, and a huge victory for your case—the penalties are substantially less. But wet reckless is still a serious charge. That’s why it’s important to understand what this charge means and when it’s a favorable outcome.
“Wet Reckless” vs. Reckless Driving
Reckless driving refers to driving in a way that potentially endangers others—for example, speeding and running up onto the sidewalk, or swerving out into oncoming traffic. This charge is serious, because it threatens peoples’ lives. You do not have to be drunk to be charged with reckless driving.
“Wet reckless,” however, is a charge of reckless driving that is only leveled at people who are accused of driving drunk. In fact, you cannot be arrested for wet reckless—the only way is to be arrested for DUI and get your charge downgraded.
To contrast the two, a normal reckless driving charge is sometimes called “dry reckless,” suggesting no alcohol was involved. Wet reckless implies you were drunk (or using some kind of drug).The penalties for the two are similar, although there is a difference: you can be charged with wet reckless even if you exhibited no actual dangerous behavior, like swerving. Simply being intoxicated is considered reckless on its own.
Having your DUI charge downgraded to wet reckless has both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of a Wet Reckless Charge
The advantages of a wet reckless charge are huge:
- Shorter jail time. The sentence for even a first time DUI can be up to six months in jail. Repeat DUI’s can be up to a year. But the maximum jail sentence for wet reckless is 90 days, and often the real sentence is far less.
- Lower fines. Even a wet reckless isn’t cheap—the maximum fine is $1,000. But that’s nothing compared to a DUI. When you add in court “assessments,” even the minimum fine for a first time DUI is nearly twice that, and a DUI can easily cost $3,000 or more. Reckless is cheaper.
- No mandatory license suspension. Wet reckless does not carry any form of license suspension. (You still need to fight your administrative suspension in a DMV hearing, however.) This is a huge advantage over DUI which carries a mandatory 6-month suspension for even a first time offense, and a year or more for subsequent offenses.
Wet reckless also carries other advantages like shorter (if any) DUI school and shorter probation. But by far the biggest advantage of a wet reckless is that there are no mandatory sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders. In other words, if you have a prior DUI on your record, and get a new DUI conviction today, the sentence will be much worse the second time than it was the first time around. But if that second DUI charge gets dropped to a wet reckless, there is no extra penalty. The wet reckless penalties are the same even for repeat offenders.
Wet reckless does come with drawbacks. These include:
- If you’re arrested for DUI again in the future, the wet reckless will still count as a prior DUI for purposes of sentencing.
- The DMV will still automatically suspend your license because you were arrested for DUI, and you still need to fight this suspension by requesting a hearing within 10 days of your arrest.
- Your insurance company will likely increase your rates in the same way they would for a DUI.
Getting Your Charge Downgraded
A wet reckless conviction clearly isn’t an ideal solution. Any good DUI lawyer will aim for one thing: to get your charges dismissed, or to win your case. But in situations where that’s unlikely, a wet reckless is a promising option.
Prosecutors don’t give out free passes, however. They will not offer to downgrade the charge against you unless they have to. Normally, that means a DUI lawyer works on your case and finds a way to pressure them. If your lawyer can discredit the breath test evidence against you, for example, the prosecution’s case just got harder. They don’t want to risk losing altogether, and have an incentive to offer you a deal.
If you’ve been charged with DUI, you need to act fast. The sooner you get a lawyer the more they will be able to do to help your case. We’re happy to match you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney who will give you a free, detailed consultation. Just fill out the form to the right and get your free consultation today.