In many cases, people facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges can plead down to a lesser offense, also known as “wet reckless driving.” But are there any advantages to pleading down as opposed to being charged with DUI in California?
This is the question we asked our Los Angeles DUI defense attorney at Okabe & Haushalter. Let’s review the main differences between the wet reckless driving and DUI charges in California, and whether the former carries lighter penalties than the latter.
More often than not, prosecutors in California use either the DUI or wet reckless driving charge when punishing motorists for operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s quite easy to confuse these two charges as they carry many similarities.
Still, there are quite a few differences between the DUI and wet reckless charges in California. Typically, those who are not represented by an experienced DUI defense attorney in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California cannot plead down to the wet reckless driving offense.
Under California law, drunk driving is a crime of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Wet reckless driving, on the other hand, is defined as willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other motorists and/or their property. Reckless driving, as a separate offense, punishes motorists for making unsafe driving decisions on the road and putting the lives and wellbeing of others at risk.
Operating a vehicle under the effects of alcohol or drugs impairs the driver’s reaction time, vision, ability to concentrate, as well as his or her judgment or reasoning. Given the aforementioned effects of alcohol or drugs on the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle, drunk driving could, arguably, fall under the category of reckless driving, which is operating a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.
Since there is no special statute that accounts for reckless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the crime of reckless driving while intoxicated is charged as reckless driving, and carries the same penalties as the regular reckless driving offense.
But from the standpoint of legal consequences and penalties, does it make any sense to plead to wet reckless driving over DUI? “It does,” says our Los Angeles DUI defense attorney at Okabe & Haushalter. At first, it might seem pointless to plead down to wet reckless driving, as both the reckless driving and DUI charges carry similar fines and penalties.
For the sake of comparison, those charged with reckless driving are facing a fine of $40 to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail. Drunk driving comes with a fine of $390 to $1,000 in addition to 90 days in jail. However, mandatory probation periods for reckless driving are usually of less significance compared to DUI.
But lower penalties are not the only advantage of pleading to wet reckless driving as opposed to DUI. While both the reckless driving and drunk driving offenses can get your driver’s license suspended, many reckless driving charges do not have the same mandatory suspension as DUI.
In addition to that, court-ordered drunk driving educational programs for those charged with reckless driving are lower than for those charged with drunk driving. More importantly, pleading to reckless driving does not carry such a negative stigma as a DUI charge in California.
Having a DUI charge on your criminal record could lead to your firing or make it nearly impossible to land a new job. This is true even for jobs in which you do not have to drive as part of your duties. Having a wet reckless driving charge on your criminal record means that you were not convicted for a DUI charge or your DUI charges were dismissed or dropped.
Still, having no charges on your criminal record is always the best option out there, though it often requires the legal help of a Los Angeles drunk driving defense lawyer. Get a free consultation from our attorneys at Okabe & Haushalter. Call at 310-430-7799 to speak about your particular situation.