What Does California’s “Wet Reckless” Plea Mean in Personal Injury Cases?

“Wet reckless” is an informal name given to a crime that a person charged with driving under the influence pleads to as part of a plea agreement. In California, this occurs when a prosecutor drops a DUI charge, which is more serious, in exchange for the defendant pleading to the less serious wet reckless charge. California is one of several states that allow a driver who has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol to plead to this lesser charge.

It may be useful to understand what a “wet reckless” charge means and how it works when you have been involved in a car accident with a motorist who has been previously charged with wet reckless. When such a plea exists on a driver’s record, that could prove meaningful to your own car accident case and potential settlement.

Understanding a Wet Reckless Charge

Wet reckless is essentially a reduced charge that is authorized by the California Vehicle Code. A wet reckless is not a charge for which someone can be arrested. It is just a less formal name for a driving conviction involving recklessness that results from a DUI plea bargain and notes that there was alcohol and/or drug use.

The main difference between a “wet reckless” and “dry reckless” is whether the criminal record will note that alcohol or drugs were involved in the offense. A “wet” conviction essentially notes the involvement of alcohol and/or drugs whereas a “dry” conviction does not. In fact, dry reckless is just another way of saying that the driver had not used alcohol and/or drugs, but was driving recklessly. The difference between wet and dry reckless is that wet reckless is a “priorable” offense. This essentially means that if the individual is convicted of another DUI offense within the next 10 years, he or she could face increased penalties as a repeat offender.

Conditions for a Wet Reckless Charge

In order to get a wet reckless plea deal, both the prosecutor and the defendant must agree to such a plea bargain and a judge must approve the plea agreement. Once all parties are on board, the defendant will be allowed to plead guilty or no contest to reckless driving. The court will then dismiss the DUI charges and notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the conviction.

California law takes this approach in DUI cases due to the belief that in some situations, a compromise works for all. The prosecution may also stand to benefit by getting a plea to a lesser charge perhaps because of a concern that their evidence might not hold up in court. It is also common to see a wet reckless charge in cases where the defendant’s blood alcohol level was right around the legal limit of 0.08%. The defendant who takes the plea deal admits guilt to an infraction, which is a lesser crime than a misdemeanor, but avoids the more serious DUI charge, which carries with it possible jail time, monetary fines, license restrictions, probation, etc.

For a wet reckless plea, there must be certain conditions. There could not have been injuries or property damage and often, it must have been a first offense involving drugs or alcohol. While a wet reckless plea keeps a DUI charge off the defendant’s record, the court can still place the defendant on probation and require him or her to enroll in alcohol and drug education programs.

It is important to note that the charge and plea stay on the defendant’s record. If they get an additional DUI offense within 10 years, the wet reckless will be converted to a DUI charge causing the new offense to count as a repeat DUI, which means more penalties. Beginning in 2019, courts also began to require those convicted of wet reckless to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles while on probation.

Here are a few things to remember about wet reckless charges. As we saw earlier, they can still count as a “prior” in a subsequence DUI case. The defendant’s driver’s license could still be suspended by the DMV. It does add two negligent operator points to the driver’s DMV record. A wet reckless plea will likely be treated as a DUI by the defendant’s auto insurance company. And finally, a wet reckless can be discovered by potential employers and other parties.

How It’s Relevant to Your Personal Injury Case

If you have been the victim of a car accident caused by another driver, it is important to know about their driving record, especially if they have had a wet reckless charge and conviction in the past. The person’s driving record, list of offenses, the circumstances in which they faced the charges and any injuries or property damage that were caused by the driver could have an effect on whether your case is settled or goes to trial. It may even affect the settlement amount that is reached in your case.

In addition to facing criminal penalties, drivers who cause injuries while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs can also be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses they have caused. Injured DUI victims in such cases can seek compensation for damages including but not limited to medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

The experienced DUI victims’ lawyers at Timothy J Ryan & Associates have helped numerous injured clients and their families seek and obtain maximum compensation. We understand that it may be difficult or even impossible for an average individual to gather evidence in complex cases. Our attorneys and investigators have the skills and resources needed to gather valuable evidence that can help strengthen your case and put you in a position to receive maximum compensation for your losses.

Our Auto accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we don’t charge our clients anything unless we recover compensation for them. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, our knowledgeable Orange County personal injury lawyers can help fight for your rights. Call us at (714) 898-4444 for a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.

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