Drunk driving is usually charged under California Vehicle Code (VC) 23152. Under some circumstances, you may be able to get your case “pled down” to a lesser offense to avoid the penalties associated with driving under the influence (DUI). When this happens, reckless driving while under the effects of alcohol is the most common charge prosecutors use instead of DUI. This “wet reckless” offense still carries many similarities to DUI, which our attorneys will explain. If you or a loved one was charged with DUI and need help with your drunk driving or wet reckless charges, contact The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Ventura drunk driving defense lawyers today to schedule a free consultation on your case.
The Difference Between Drunk Driving and Wet Reckless Driving
Drunk driving and wet reckless are two different offenses. Under VC 23152, drunk driving is the crime of operating a vehicle while under the effects of drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, VC 23103 deals with reckless driving, which is driving with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of” others or their property. Our DUI defense attorneys elaborate on these crimes’ definitions and their differences.
Drunk driving can be proved in a few different ways. First, police can arrest you for driving while your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is .08% or higher. This is a measure of how much alcohol is in your system, and .08% is considered the “legal limit.” Any time you have that much alcohol in your blood, the law considers you per se intoxicated, even if you can still walk or drive somewhat safely through practice. Alternatively, police can use testimony about how you were driving and what unsafe decisions you made behind the wheel to show that the alcohol in your system made you unfit to drive, even if your BAC is under 08% but you are still “under the influence.” Lastly, police can use a blood test or other evidence to show that you were driving under the effects of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol when you were driving.
Reckless driving, on the other hand, deals with unsafe driving decisions. When driving under the effects of drugs or alcohol, your abilities to properly judge dangers, react promptly to emergencies, and make safe decisions behind the wheel are all impaired. This means that your drunk driving is inherently unsafe if you are sufficiently drunk or high, and your driving would automatically risk the safety of others. Because of this, drunk driving could, arguably, fall under the “willful or wanton disregard” required for reckless driving. However, reckless driving has no BAC requirement or alcohol consumption requirement.
If reckless driving is charged for anything other than DUI, the prosecutor must show specific facts that indicate the driver was being unsafe. Specific violations like speeding or running a red light have their own statutes, so something additional is usually needed to charge reckless driving. In many cases, reckless driving is charged when multiple traffic violations are committed at once or when someone’s driving puts others in serious risk, even without other violations.
When reckless driving is charged as “wet reckless,” there is no special statute that accounts for reckless driving while intoxicated. Instead, the crime is charged as reckless driving (under VC 23103), subject to terms laid out in VC 23103.5.
What is the Benefit to Pleading to Wet Reckless Over DUI?
Both DUI and wet reckless carry potential fines and jail time. For a first-time offender, reckless driving carries a fine of $40-$1,000 and up to 90 days in jail. Drunk driving, on the other hand, carries a first-time DUI fine of $390-$1,000 and 90 days in jail. Additionally, mandatory probation periods might be less for wet reckless than for DUI. So, as a first benefit, wet reckless charges typically have lower penalties. However, other benefits may not be as obvious.
Both of these offenses can get your driver’s license suspended, but many reckless driving charges do not have the same mandatory suspension as DUI. Additionally, any court-ordered drunk driving education might be lower with wet reckless than with DUI.
The main benefits are those related to your criminal record. If you drive as part of your job, having a DUI could ruin your career. Other employers might look to DUI records, even if you do not have to drive as part of your job. If you plead to reckless driving instead of being charged with DUI, you can legally say that you were not convicted for a DUI charge and that the DUI charge was dropped. Your employer may not like seeing a reckless driving charge, but this does not carry the same negative stigma as a DUI charge.
However, even if an employer does not know that your reckless driving was related to DUI, the court still does. As part of VC 23103.5, your wet reckless conviction can still be used as a prior offense when looking at penalties for second or subsequent DUI offenses. This means potentially upgrading the penalties for a second-time DUI, even if your “first DUI conviction” was plead down to reckless driving.
Ventura, CA Wet Reckless and DUI Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with drunk driving in Ventura, call the Ventura criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our attorneys may be able to fight your charges or work to get your charges reduced to reckless driving. For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today online or by calling (805) 585-5056.