Many drivers facing their first California DUI are able to get the charge pled down to a wet reckless. A wet reckless driving charge has lower penalties compared to a first-time DUI. If you are able to complete the terms of informal probation, you may even be able to get the charges dismissed.
Unfortunately, over time, you may get pulled over again on suspicion of drunk driving and have to face DUI charges. Drivers who completed their first wet reckless probation may want to plead to reckless driving again, just like they did the first time. Unfortunately, a second reckless may not always be available to California drivers and they may face harsher penalties than a 1st-time DUI.
Plea agreements, probation terms, and expungements can be confusing if you are facing a second drunk driving arrest. To clear things up and find out about your legal rights after an East Bay DUI arrest, talk to an experienced East Bay DUI defense attorney for legal advice.
What Is a Wet Reckless?
After a drunk driving arrest, the defendant generally has a few options. Plead not guilty and go to trial or plead guilty or no contest under a plea agreement. The benefits of a plea deal are waiving the right to a trial in exchange for lesser penalties, including:
- Reducing the number of charges
- Pleading to a lesser offense
- Pleading down from a felony to a misdemeanor;
- Getting a more lenient sentence
- Probation instead of jail time
With driving under the influence (DUI) charges, a lesser charge is known as wet-reckless. This is treated like a reckless driving charge that involves alcohol. You can't be charged with a wet-reckless but it is a tool for prosecutors to get a plea agreement without the harsh penalties of a DUI.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23103.5, the prosecution can agree to a plea of guilty or no contest to reckless driving as a substitute for the original charge of a DUI. The prosecutor also states whether there was alcohol or drugs involved in the offense.
After pleading to wet reckless driving, the driver does not have to face a mandatory license suspension. However, the court may require an ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 3 months.
If the court doesn't impose an IID, the DMV may still have administratively suspended the driver's license after the arrest. As your DUI defense attorney about how to fight a DMV administrative license suspension to keep your license after the arrest.
Other penalties for a wet reckless are also lower than for a DUI, including:
- Lower fines than for a DUI
- Less jail time than for a DUI (or no jail time)
- Shorter probation than for a DUI
- Shorter DUI school (12 hour) than a DUI (30 hour)
Can I Plea to a Wet Reckless After a 2nd Arrest?
Yes, you may be able to accept a guilty plea for a 2nd wet reckless. A 2nd wet reckless is better than a 2nd DUI. There is no mandatory jail time for a 2nd reckless but there is for a 1st or 2nd DUI. However, the judge may be less willing to accept a second wet reckless plea, depending on the situation.
The judge may be less willing to accept a 2nd wet reckless if, for example:
- Short period between drunk driving arrests
- Drunk driving involved an accident or injury
- High blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest
- Driver shows no responsibility or remorse
If you can get a 2nd wet reckless, DUI school is extended to 9 months (60 hours).
What If My First Charge Was Dismissed or Expunged?
This is a common question for California drivers, especially after getting their charges expunged. After serving out the terms of your probation, you may be able to apply to have your criminal charges dismissed on your criminal record under California Penal Code §1203.4.
A 1203.4 petition can change your criminal record to show a dismissal instead of a conviction. This will be reflected in public searches of your criminal record, which can help you get a job. Unfortunately, the offense will still be visible to the government and law enforcement agencies.
Even the Judicial Branch of California makes it clear that " true expungement does not exist in California." For the purposes of a prior offense, the police and the courts will know you had a prior drunk driving arrest that was pleaded down to a wet reckless.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI After a Wet Reckless?
If you can't get a second wet reckless plea and you plead guilty (or are found guilty at trial), you will be facing a 2nd DUI. Yes, a 1st DUI after a wet reckless within 10 years is counted as a 2nd DUI.
California counts prior offenses when counting the number of DUIs for multiple drunk driving offenses. The lookback period is 10 years. Even if you had a DUI out of state within the past 10 years, any subsequent drunk driving charge will be a repeat offense.
Generally, the penalties for a second drunk driving conviction in California include:
- Jail time from 96 hours to 1 year
- License suspension for 2 years
- Ignition interlock device (IID)
- Fines, fees, and penalties
- DUI School of 18 months
- Probation 3-5 years
The court may also require attending a victim impact panel, community service, and attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
How Much Time Has to Pass to Avoid a 2nd DUI Charge?
If you have a prior wet reckless or drunk driving conviction, whether it was expunged or not, you have to wait 10 years to avoid a 2nd drunk driving charge. If you have questions about whether an out-of-state wet reckless counts as a prior offense in California, it may depend on the individual state laws involved. Talk to an experienced California DUI defense lawyer to find out how you can avoid a 2nd DUI.
Talk to an East Bay DUI Defense Lawyer About Your Case
Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of East Bay DUI defense experience and understands how much is at stake for drivers facing a second offense. She understands how to approach the individual case and defense strategies to avoid a conviction. If you are a driver facing DUI charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick for help.