Besides sounding like the title of a teenage tryst flick or an adult film title, Wet and Reckless is the plea bargain often given to those alleged DUI offenders with borderline blood alcohol content readings. It is also known as a wet reckless, reckless driving involving alcohol, a "baby" DUI, or CA Vehicle Code Section 23103.5, which is not nearly as sexy of a title.
The Wet Reckless charge is a curious creation of California's legislature. It is in the vehicle code as "Guilty Plea to Lesser Charge" and is only available as such. You cannot be charged with the crime. It may only come to fruition via a plea bargain. To fully understand the utility of the charge, it is important to view the DUI arrest process as a whole.
When a driver is arrested for driving under the influence, they are subjected to a blood alcohol content test via their blood or breath. They are then most often charged with two offenses: driving while impaired and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more. They are alternate charges, brought forth to allow prosecution for drugged driving, or drunk driving where a BAC is unavailable, tainted, or too low to meet the 0.08 standard.
For those drivers who have no aggravating circumstances, such as an accident, their lawyer can sometimes negotiate a plea of guilty to a Wet Reckless charge instead of a full-blown DUI. Prosecutors are often happy to oblige for those who had BAC readings at or near the 0.08 level and no prior DUIs.
But please note, for those with elevated levels, priors, or who caused an accident, the odds are incredibly slim that the prosecutor will be feeling that generous, unless their case has holes in it, such as excluded evidence.
The benefits of a Wet Reckless are numerous. For one, the probationary period is much shorter. A DUI offense carries a minimum probationary period of three years for a first offense and 96 hours of jail time. A Wet Reckless carries a two year probationary period and no jail time. The fines are often typically smaller. There is also no mandatory license suspension, per the court, but the DMV may still suspend your license in their own administrative hearing. The alcohol education class is also shorter than for a full DUI.
The biggest benefit for most people however, regards the recently instituted ignition interlock device requirements. An IID is required for first time offenders in Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare, and Sacramento counties under the currently running pilot program. However, it is not required for Wet Reckless convictions.
Wet and Reckless is not all sunshine and light, however. The charge is priorable for future DUIs, which means future offenses will be punished as if you are a repeat offender. It is also two points on your license, just like a regular DUI. As for insurance rates, it often shows up as a DUI for many, but not all insurance companies.
- Find a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer (FindLaw)
- Bobby Brown Takes Plea Bargain in DUI; TMZ Seems Confused (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)
- California DUI Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- DUI Cases (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)