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Los Angeles DUI vs. Wet Reckless

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What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a Wet Reckless Charge?

If you are familiar with the offense of DUI (driving under the influence), you may have heard of the term “wet reckless.” You might be wondering what a “wet reckless” offense is and what it has to do with DUIs. A “wet reckless conviction” is basically a reduced DUI charge.

Understanding the meaning, similarities, and differences between both charges is essential if you or your loved one is charged with DUI. It will enable you to make an informed decision if the prosecution offers you a plea bargain. It could also allow you to have a more comprehensive consultation with your Los Angeles criminal lawyer regarding your DUI defense.

For more information, call the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney.

What Is a Wet Reckless?

The term “wet reckless” is a colloquialism that refers to a charge of reckless driving involving alcohol. Typically, a reckless driving charge is brought against a defendant who willfully drives without regard for the safety of persons or property. This regular form of reckless driving is known as a “dry reckless” charge.

However, where a person has been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), Vehicle Code 23103.5 provides an alternate criminal charge. It states that the prosecution can agree to reduce the DUI charge to a reckless driving charge with a note on their criminal record indicating that the reckless driving involved the consumption of alcohol or a drug. This is what is referred to as a “wet reckless” conviction.

A “wet reckless” does not constitute an original charge, so you cannot be arrested for it. It only comes up in plea bargains where the prosecutor offers to reduce a DUI charge if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a wet reckless charge.

Wet reckless driving is very similar to DUI, with a few distinctions that make it a slightly less severe charge. Depending on how clear-cut your DUI case is, a “wet reckless” plea bargain might be the best result you can get. However, it is important you discuss it thoroughly with your criminal defense lawyer first.

How Does a Wet Reckless Differ From a DUI in Los Angeles?

The major differences between “wet reckless” and DUI lie in the penalties they attract. The penalties for DUI convictions are more severe than those for wet reckless convictions.

Jail Time

According to the California Vehicle Code, the maximum jail time for wet reckless driving is 90 days; meanwhile, a 1st offense DUI in California attracts up to six months in county jail, and subsequent DUI convictions could attract up to 1 year. Also, if you have a prior DUI conviction, you can avoid several months in jail by getting your subsequent DUI reduced to a wet reckless charge.


If you are sentenced to probation, a DUI typically requires between three to five years of probation. In contrast, a wet reckless charge would only require one or two years of probation. This is significant because you can only expunge your criminal record (if you so desire) after completing your probation period.

Driving Privileges

The consequences of a “wet reckless” conviction on your driving privileges are limited compared to that of a DUI. A DUI conviction in California triggers a mandatory court-ordered license suspension under Vehicle Code §13352. A first-time DUI would attract a 6-month suspension, while a subsequent DUI can attract mandatory license suspension for two or three years.

On the other hand, a wet reckless conviction does not trigger automatic license suspension as a penalty. The court might simply order the use of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for a limited period (usually three to six months). However, this does not prevent the administrative license suspension that occurs after a DUI arrest unless you request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest and win the hearing.

DUI School

Finally, in both cases, you must go to DUI school. However, the minimum period you are mandated to attend this school for a DUI conviction is three months instead of 6 weeks for a “wet reckless” case.

Effect on Auto-Insurance

Both wet reckless and DUI convictions will affect your insurance. Most times, insurance companies treat them similarly. Even a regular reckless driving conviction will likely raise your auto insurance rates. However, some companies might treat a “wet reckless” conviction more leniently.

Under What Circumstances Are You Likely to Be Offered a Wet Reckless Plea Deal?

A prosecutor is likely to offer a wet, reckless plea bargain when they want to secure a quick conviction or their case against you is weak. Several times, both of these statements are simultaneously the case. The prosecution is likely to reduce your DUI charge in the following circumstances:

  • If your blood alcohol level was very close to or equal to 0.08% at the time of the arrest
  • If there were procedural flaws during the DUI arrest or investigation, e.g., if the breath testing instrument was not calibrated according to legal requirements, or if your rights were violated during the arrest
  • If you have no history of alcohol or drug-related offenses
  • If you are cooperative and polite to law enforcement officials during the investigation
  • If some other mitigating circumstances are present in the case

It is important to note that prosecutors will not offer a “wet reckless” plea unless they have to. In most cases, your attorney has to bargain, pressure them, and put in the work to weaken their case.

Also, although a wet reckless conviction is less severe than a DUI conviction, it is still not ideal. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, your attorney can push for a more reduced charge, like a dry reckless charge or a lesser traffic violation. A skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney may even be able to get your charges dropped altogether.

Book a Free Consultation with our Attorneys

Having a skilled criminal defense law firm on your team is important when facing DUI charges. It can be the difference between jail time and probation, license suspension and retaining your driving privileges, and many other things. At the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case without any pressure or monetary commitment.

Our lawyers are skilled in the art of aggressive and thorough criminal defense. We comb through the facts of your case and explore every possible avenue of defense you have. Our aim is always to get your charges dropped or get you acquitted. However, where that is not possible, we push for the least severe penalty for the offense you are charged with.

Let us help you if you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge or if you have questions about DUIs, such as “Is a DUI a felony?” Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.