Pasadena Criminal Attorney

Sharen Ghatan- Lead Attorney
Over 20 Years of Experience Practicing Criminal Defense

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Dry Reckless

A DUI conviction in California carries serious consequences, for example, driver’s license suspension, hefty fines, and even jail time. But there are options. Plea bargains, such as a "dry reckless" charge, can significantly reduce penalties. A skilled DUI defense lawyer can negotiate the best plea deal on your behalf and avoid severe sentencing.

At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, our lawyers fight for our clients to help achieve a favorable outcome. If you work with us, we will explore all strategies, such as plea negotiations, to protect you from the harsh court-imposed DUI penalties. If you are facing DUI charges in Pasadena, contact our office. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to secure a potential dry reckless plea depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.

An Overview of Dry Reckless

A dry reckless plea bargain is an agreement where you plead guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving instead of a DUI. Per California Vehicle Code 23103 VC, reckless driving is driving a vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for other people’s or property’s safety.

Willful or wanton disregard suggests more than simple negligence or careless driving. There must be evidence suggesting you consciously chose to drive in a way that posed a known risk of harm to people or property. Entering into a dry reckless plea bargain removes any mention of alcohol or drugs from the conviction, offering a less severe outcome.

The Difference Between Dry Reckless and Wet Reckless Plea Deals

The negotiation between your DUI defense attorney and the prosecution team could involve having your DUI charges reduced to a dry or wet reckless. Both options reduce the severity of a DUI charge, but there are key distinctions:

What is “Wet Reckless” in California?

A wet reckless plea bargain involves admitting to reckless driving while intoxicated. This plea bargain represents a lesser charge than a DUI, but it remains a DUI-related conviction on your record.

California law treats a wet reckless like a prior DUI conviction. Therefore, if you plead guilty to a wet reckless charge and face another DUI conviction within 10 years, the law considers the new charge a second offense. Often, you attract a harsher sentence.

What is a California “Dry Reckless”?

When it comes to a dry reckless plea bargain, there's no mention of alcohol or drugs. The conviction is treated as a standard reckless driving offense, completely separate from a DUI. A dry reckless cannot count as a prior DUI. Therefore, if you have a dry reckless and face another DUI charge, the new charge is not considered a second DUI offense but a first DUI offense.

You could unexpectedly face a second DUI charge in 10 years. Therefore, when facing a DUI charge in California, it is recommended that you choose a dry reckless plea bargain over a wet reckless one. Factors such as the strength of the evidence against you, your driving record, and the specific circumstances of your case will influence the likelihood of securing this plea deal.

Dry Reckless vs. Reckless Driving as a Stand-Alone Crime

Even though dry reckless is a plea bargain in DUI cases, reckless driving is a standalone criminal offense in California. You could be charged with reckless driving even if alcohol or drugs were not involved.

As mentioned above, reckless driving is driving a vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, per California Vehicle Code 23103. The potential penalties for a standalone reckless driving conviction are generally less severe than those for a DUI. But they can still include fines, jail time, and license restrictions. Acts that could have you facing charges for reckless driving are:

  • Excessive speeding.
  • Aggressive tailgating.
  • Dangerous lane changes.
  • Racing or other exhibitions of speed.
  • Running red lights or stop signs.

Benefits of a Dry Reckless Plea Deal Over a DUI Conviction

In a "dry reckless" plea bargain, a person charged with a California DUI pleads guilty to the lesser charge of a Vehicle Code 23103 violation. This omits any mention of alcohol or drugs from the record.

Key advantages of a dry reckless over a DUI conviction include:

No DUI Education Program

One major advantage of a dry reckless plea deal is that it typically avoids the mandatory DUI education program required for DUI convictions in California. The alcohol education program is a minimum of three months for a first-time offender and 18 months for repeated DUIs. However, the judge may sometimes order a shorter education program of no more than 6 months as part of the plea deal.

Since the charge is now reckless driving, any required education program will likely focus on safe driving practices and the potential dangers of reckless behavior behind the wheel.

No Mandatory Court-Imposed License Suspension

A conviction for a California  DUI carries an automatic driver's license suspension imposed by the criminal court. However, a dry reckless plea generally eliminates this mandatory suspension. This plea allows you to maintain driving privileges.

Even if you avoid a driver’s license suspension after your plea deal, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may still take action based on the reckless driving conviction. Note that points added to your driving record can contribute to a "negligent operator" suspension.

A Lower Fine

Usually, you can be subject to no more than a $1,000 fine upon conviction for both a California DUI and dry reckless. If you add a court-imposed “penalty assessment,” you are likely subject to over $3000 in fines. But if the court grants you a dry reckless plea, you only attract half of the fines you could attract upon a DUI conviction.

Also, a dry reckless charge reduction carries a mandatory minimum fine of only $145. That is a huge difference compared to the $390 fine for a California DUI.

Shorter Probationary Term

DUI convictions in California result in three to five years of probationary periods. Probation can come with significant restrictions and requirements. In contrast, a dry reckless conviction typically involves a shorter probation term, often around one to two years. This means less time under supervision and fewer restrictions on your life.

You enjoy the benefit of a shorter probation period, especially after facing an arrest for another offense. For example, driving with a suspended license or driving under the influence. Once your probation period ends, you cannot be sentenced for violating its terms.

Shorter Custody/ Jail Terms

Jail time is often shorter or entirely avoided with a dry reckless plea deal. A dry reckless conviction is considered less severe compared to a DUI.

A dry reckless plea carries a maximum jail time of 90 days in county jail. A California DUI, oppositely, could result in a six-month sentence. The DUI sentence can even double to a year if you have prior DUI offenses.

The distinction matters greatly in the case of a probation violation. With a dry reckless, 90 days is the absolute maximum sentence. This is notably less than the potential punishment you would be subject to after violating probation on a DUI conviction.

No Mandatory Sentence Enhancements for Repeat Offenders

In California, a DUI conviction is considered a "priorable" offense. If you are convicted of another DUI within ten years, the previous conviction will increase the penalties for the new offense.

A key advantage of a dry reckless plea bargain is that it typically breaks this chain of sentence enhancements. Since a dry reckless is not considered a DUI-related conviction, it won't count as a "prior" if you face a subsequent DUI charge.

For example, if you're convicted of a DUI and then arrested for another DUI within ten years, the second DUI will be treated as a second offense. This means mandatory jail time, longer license suspensions, and increased fines.

And, if you obtain a dry reckless plea bargain for your first offense and then get arrested for DUI within ten years, the subsequent DUI will generally be treated as a first offense. This could considerably lessen the potential penalties.

No Requirement to Install an IID

Upon a conviction for a California DUI, the court often orders ignition interlock device (IID) installations in motorists' vehicles. An IID is a breathalyzer-like device that prevents you from starting your car if it detects alcohol on your breath.

A dry reckless plea bargain typically eliminates the mandatory installation of an IID in vehicles. This means you can continue driving freely without installing an IID.

The Auto Insurance Provider Will Not Cancel Your Insurance Policy

After a DUI conviction, you could have severe consequences with your auto insurance provider. Insurance companies consider DUI convictions as high-risk, potentially resulting in significantly increased premiums or, even worse, the cancellation of your policy altogether. Finding new coverage after a DUI can be challenging and expensive.

In contrast, auto insurance companies view a dry reckless conviction less harshly. Since it's not a DUI-related conviction, it is less likely to trigger a major increase in your insurance rates or policy cancellation. This can save you significant costs and the hassle of finding new insurance.

The Benefits Of The Dry Reckless Plea Deal Over The Wet Reckless Bargain

Prosecutors will likely prefer a wet reckless plea deal as it has harsh penalties, some of which are similar to those of a California DUI conviction. However, a dry reckless plea bargain has many advantages compared to a wet reckless one.

With the help of a qualified criminal lawyer, you can negotiate further in the prosecutor's offer of wet reckless as the ‘first level’ of your plea deal. Examples of the advantages include:

A Dry Reckless Is Not Priorable

As mentioned above, a wet reckless is a lesser charge than a DUI. However, it remains a DUI-related conviction on your record. Since it is a "priorable" offense, a wet reckless will lead to harsher penalties for any subsequent DUI convictions within 10 years.

A dry reckless conviction avoids this "priority," providing a significant long-term advantage. If you are unfortunately charged with a DUI in the future, a prior dry reckless won't automatically trigger mandatory sentence enhancements. However, you still face a first-time DUI offense.

Insurers Prefer a Conviction of Reckless Driving

A dry reckless driving conviction is generally less damaging to your insurance situation than a California wet reckless or DUI.

Insurance companies often won't cancel your policy or dramatically increase your premiums after a dry reckless conviction.

A dry reckless conviction typically won't jeopardize professional or commercial licenses like a DUI or wet reckless might. This is because a dry reckless is recorded as a standard misdemeanor reckless driving offense, without the direct link to alcohol use found in a wet reckless.

A Wet Reckless Entails Extra Informal Probation Terms

When convicted of a wet reckless, you'll likely face additional probation terms beyond those of a dry reckless. These can include:

  1. Zero Tolerance — You must completely abstain from driving with any detectable level of alcohol or narcotics in your system.
  2. Compulsory Testing — You must submit to field sobriety tests (FSTs) if a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence.

Normally, probation terms for a dry reckless conviction tend to be less restrictive than those imposed for a wet reckless.

When Does the Prosecutor Grant a Dry Reckless Plea Deal?

Obtaining a dry reckless plea deal is a negotiation between your defense attorney and the prosecution. Often, the prosecutors prefer a priorable wet reckless as a DUI reduction over a dry reckless.

A prosecutor is more likely to offer a dry reckless plea deal if:

Your Blood Alcohol Concentration Was Not Very Close to 0.08 Percent

If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was significantly below the legal limit of 0.08%, a prosecutor might be more inclined to offer a dry reckless plea deal. A lower BAC can make it more challenging for the prosecution to prove you were impaired by alcohol and secure a DUI conviction.

For example, police from the Pasadena Police Department arrest Juliet for a DUI offense. Upon performing a blood test, it was found that Juliet’s BAC was 0.10%. Juliet’s criminal attorney senses a blunder and petitions for a BAC retest. The second test result showed that Juliet's BAC was insufficient. Juliet, with the help of her lawyer, negotiated a dry reckless plea deal to avoid the harsh DUI punishment.

Evidence Presented To Them is Flawed

If there are weaknesses in the prosecution's case against you, the chances of obtaining a dry reckless plea bargain increase. Examples of the weaknesses could include:

  • The police lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop, and procedural errors occurred during the arrest.
  • Issues with evidence collection. Were field sobriety tests administered correctly? Was the breathalyzer machine properly calibrated? Were there chain-of-custody issues with any blood or urine samples?
  • Lack of witness testimony. If there are limited witnesses to support the prosecution's.

For example, Dennis faces a DUI arrest in Pasadena. He is calm and collected when the traffic officer investigates the traffic stop. Dennis begins arguing when the officer asks him to submit to a chemical test. Because Dennis refused to comply, this would likely result in an enhanced DUI charge.

During the pretrial motion, the arresting officer minces his words when testifying against Dennis. The officer cannot convince the court that Dennis was driving under the influence without the chemical test. This becomes advantageous to Dennis, who, together with his lawyer, negotiates a lower DUI charge down to a dry reckless.

Expunging Your Dry Reckless Record

A dry reckless conviction remains on your DMV record for 13 years. This could have long-lasting consequences. For example, it could hinder your job prospects, especially in fields with mandatory clean driving records.

Fortunately, a dry reckless conviction may be eligible for expungement under California law. Expungement is a legal process that essentially seals the conviction from your record.

You can expunge your criminal record, either on your own or with the help of an attorney. There are fees involved, but the benefits are significant. They include:

  • You are protected during job applications. Employers cannot ask about your expunged conviction unless a conditional job offer is made.
  • You are not obligated to disclose your conviction. You are not required to reveal an expunged conviction to employers or state licensing bodies.
  • You enjoy fair employment opportunities. Employers cannot use an expunged conviction as grounds to deny you a job.

Other Common DUI Charge Reductions Related to Dry Reckless

Apart from the DUI charge reductions explained above (wet and dry reckless), other favorable ones include but are not limited to:

Exhibition of Speed

An "exhibition of speed" (or "speed ex") is a less frequent plea bargain offered in DUI cases, often when the prosecution has a weak case.

While still a misdemeanor offense with potential probation, fines, and even some jail time, an exhibition of speed generally offers significant advantages over a DUI:

  • Most "speed ex" convictions result in no jail time whatsoever.
  • The fines and probation period associated with an exhibition of speed are typically shorter and less severe than those for a DUI.
  • It may add fewer points to your driving record than a DUI.

For these reasons, an exhibition of a speed charge is often a favorable outcome for DUI defendants.

Drunk in Public

A "drunk in public" (DIP) charge is a less frequent outcome in DUI cases. It is often considered when someone is visibly intoxicated, but there's no clear evidence they were driving. For example, a DIP plea might be offered if you were found passed out in a parked car.

This plea deal is a misdemeanor and attracts potential jail time and fines. Key advantages of a DIP charge over a DUI are:

  • It avoids adding negligent operator points to your DMV record.
  • Fines and jail time might be less severe than with a DUI conviction.

Drinking Alcohol in a Vehicle

Sometimes, a DUI charge might be reduced to "drinking alcohol in a vehicle." This law prohibits drivers and passengers from consuming alcohol in a car on a public road.

This plea bargain is often considered when the prosecution's case has weaknesses. For example, if your DUI blood or breath test showed a BAC just at or slightly over the legal limit, it might raise doubts about the accuracy of the results.

When a chemical test result is close to the legal limit, it can introduce enough uncertainty to create "reasonable doubt." This puts both the prosecution and the defense in a position where they may prefer a guaranteed outcome over the risk of losing at trial.

That is why a "drinking alcohol in a vehicle" charge can be a favorable outcome for those facing a DUI. It is usually a non-criminal infraction, resulting in a small fine without a criminal record. Also, this charge does not add points to your DMV record.

Traffic Infractions

The prosecution only offers traffic infractions (or "moving violations") as a DUI plea deal when they believe a DUI conviction is unlikely. This means there may be significant flaws in the prosecution's case.

Traffic infractions are not considered crimes and typically result in only a minor fine.

Prosecutors may offer a DUI plea deal involving two traffic infractions, known as a "pair of movers." This usually includes one offense eligible for traffic school (potentially avoiding DMV points) and another that does add points to your driving record.

Scenarios, where traffic infractions ("movers") might be offered in a DUI plea bargain, include the following:

  • If there were significant violations of police protocol (like California's Title 17). Here, the prosecution's case weakens, making a traffic infraction plea more likely.
  • If the accuracy of chemical tests (blood or breath) cannot be proven. It becomes harder to secure a DUI conviction, and a traffic infraction plea bargain becomes a possibility.

Find a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

A dry reckless is a plea bargain where someone charged with DUI agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving without alcohol involvement. This is favorable in DUI cases because it significantly reduces penalties compared to a DUI or wet reckless conviction.

This plea deal comes with several benefits, as explained above. You do not want to delay seeking legal counsel if you are facing DUI charges. The sooner you have an experienced defense attorney advocating on your behalf, the better your chances of achieving a favorable outcome.

At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we can help negotiate a favorable plea deal to avoid trial if you are charged with DUI. Contact us today at 626-689-2277 for a free consultation and learn how we can fight for you.

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