A “wet reckless”, as it is commonly known (Vehicle Code section 23103.5), is basically a DUI that may be reduced by the prosecutor for any combination of reasons. These may include; low alcohol level, first time offender, no prior criminal record, good driving history, no poor driving pattern observed, and field sobriety exercises done satisfactorily. The criminal punishment for a wet reckless is distinguishable from a DUI because it usually involves less probation, no jail, substantially lower fines, perhaps only a 12-hours alcohol school program and no ignition interlock device (IID) is required by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
There are no set criteria or standards for what will cause a prosecutor to reduce a DUI to a “wet reckless”. It is a very subjective evaluation and in some California counties, it will not even be offered per that prosecutor’s office policy, especially when the defendant has suffered prior DUI convictions or presents with aggravating factors (described above). Consequently, an attorney will have to affirmatively discuss with the prosecutor why such consideration is warranted on behalf of the client.
Similarly, there are countless factual scenarios that favor a client who is:
- “sleeping off” his alcohol consumption, while parked legally on the street
- observed drinking in his car while driving, but not showing signs of impairment
- involved in an accident and appeared intoxicated, but is not contacted by police until after he’s been home for several hours
- arrested for DUI, but through no fault of his own, a chemical test is not performed or available
In such situations, an experienced attorney may exert appropriate pressure and influence upon the prosecutor to recognize the difficulty in proving DUI charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on additional factors (no criminal record or history, no poor driving observed, FST’s performed adequately, client is cooperative with police during investigation, etc), the prosecutor may be willing to offer a “dry reckless” (Vehicle Code section 23103) or “public intoxication” (Penal Code section 647(f)). Both of these violations carry far fewer criminal penalties and very little DMV consequences, comparatively.