Driving after drinking can lead you into some pretty serious consequences. You may be aware of common DUI laws and the standard sentencing for a DUI; you probably know a few people who have gotten them. California's DUI laws are bound to alcohol content percentages so you might think being right below the .08% BAC reading non-commercial and of legal age drivers, you'll be ok. However, it is always illegal to drive unsafely, with or without alcohol being involved. So, even if you have a BAC below .08%, if you are driving recklessly, you may still face an alcohol related charge. In California this is called a wet reckless driving charge. A wet reckless charge means you were driving in an unsafe manner with disregard to others' safety and alcohol, or drugs, were involved, but not at illegal limits. If you are below the .08% BAC limit, but were driving recklessly, you can be charged with wet reckless driving. There are a few things you should know about this charge. First, it is still an alcohol related driving charge. If you later on get your first DUI at a future date, your wet reckless driving charge will still be taken into consideration when the judge sentences you. California has strict DUI laws to prevent recidivism and if you are caught driving with alcohol in your system again, after a wet reckless driving charge, you are viewed as a recidivist. This could mean you are charged with a felony DUI instead of a misdemeanor and your first DUI will be charged as a second DUI even though it is technically your first DUI charge. If you are arrested for a DUI, you are a first time offender and your BAC level was at or slightly below .08%, you may be able to accept a wet reckless driving conviction, instead of a DUI, as a part of a plea bargain. The plea bargain would end in you walking away with a lesser charge than a DUI, which really is a bargain. However, not every first time DUI offender will have this as an option, and it is highly unlikely the prosecution will accept a wet reckless plea bargain if any property or person was injured as a result of your driving. Remember, it is a called a plea bargain because it is essentially asking the prosecution to make a deal with you, which the prosecution can still refuse. Having an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side can help you make such a deal with the prosecution but it is ultimately up to the discretion of the prosecution. A wet reckless driving charge is different from a DUI in that it doesn't bring with it the mandatory DUI sentencing under California state law. With a wet reckless charge, you will not be arrested or be ordered to serve mandatory jail time. A wet reckless is a misdemeanor charge that will come with probation, a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence no longer than 90 days. You may also be ordered to complete a DUI class program, however this will be shorter than what you could be ordered to take as a DUI offender. Wet reckless driving charges will also include a DMV mandated SR-22 insurance filing along with increased insurance rates and any other consequences the DMV hands down to you, including the potential to have your license suspended. The courts will automatically inform the DMV of your charge and they will notify you of any consequences. As a "reckless driver", the DMV as well as insurance companies will see you as just a dangerous, if not more, driver than those with a DUI conviction. Reckless driving, while it doesn't come with all the mandatory DUI sentencing components, is still a charge that will appear on your driving and criminal record and can affect your insurance, employment and future DUI sentencing for years to come. If you have the opportunity to take a wet reckless charge as a part of a plea bargain, consider first which charge you would rather have and what consequences you can deal with. In general, the wet reckless charge is a good deal if you are facing DUI charges but remember it will still count against you in your sentencing for a second or subsequent offense. Talk to an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you are facing DUI charges but are seeking a wet reckless charge as part of a plea bargain. An attorney experienced with criminal defense in California will be able to evaluate your case facts and inform you as to how to proceed in getting the prosecution to accept your plea bargain.
Have you or a loved one recently been arrested for a DUI? DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens knows how to best advise you in this scenario, potentially saving you time, money and a DUI charge. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert DUI defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.