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DUI: Plea Bargaining DUI charges to Dry Reckless

A dry reckless is when a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) suspect decides to plead to a reckless driving offense (without the use of alcohol) under the Vehicle Code (VC) §23103. DUI case is considered a favorable plea bargain because a dry reckless conviction carries less severe penalties than a typical DUI conviction.

In general, the penalties for a dry careless include a misdemeanor probation for 1 to 5 years, jail time of up to 90 days, and/or payment of fines of up to $1000 plus court fees are possible.

Plea bargain to the lesser offense of dry reckless is especially applicable when the original charges are violation of VC §23152(a), DUI or VC §23152(b), driving with a BAC of 0.08 or above.1 [Vehicle Code §23103]

Reducing the charge to a dry reckless will necessarily result in several advantages over DUI penalties in California. These benefits include a shorter probation time, reduced overall fines, and no forced license suspension [Vehicle Code §23536, 23540, and 23546 – DUI penalties].

A VC §23103 dry reckless DUI plea bargain is also preferable to a so-called "wet reckless" DUI plea bargain. Because a "dry reckless" is not priorable in the same way that a "wet reckless" is, it will not raise penalties if one is arrested for DUI again in the future [Vehicle Code 23540 VC].

Benefits of dry reckless vs. DUI conviction

The term "dry reckless" refers to a situation in which defendants accused with California DUI reduce the charges to V §23103, reckless driving. This is a lesser offense since a dry reckless charge will not indicate on the record that alcohol or drugs were involved in the arrest.

The term "reckless driving" refers to driving with an intentional or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property [Vehicle Code §23103].

A dry reckless plea bargain/charge reduction in California has major advantages versus a California DUI. These are some examples:

  • Repeat dry reckless offenders are not subject to mandatory sentencing enhancements.
  • The sentence for a dry reckless, unlike a California DUI, does not automatically rise with each subsequent conviction [ Vehicle Code §23536, 23540, 23546].

While it is true that a court may punish harshly those who are convicted of reckless driving on many occasions, there is no obligatory necessity for doing so considering those violators with multiple DUI convictions [Vehicle Code §23536, 23540, 23546].

1.) Reduced county prison sentence

A dry reckless plea agreement under Vehicle Code §23103 only results in a maximum of ninety (90) days in county prison. A California DUI, on the other hand, has a maximum six-month penalty (which climbs to one year for a second or third offense) [Vehicle Code §23103; See also Vehicle Code §23536, 23540, 23546 — DUI penalties]

This distinction is especially crucial if a defendant is on probation and is at the risk of violating its terms.

2.) Period of Probation is reduced

Probation for a dry reckless conviction is usually only one or two years long. Probation for a California DUI, on the other hand, normally lasts between three to five years.

This benefit (together with the one mentioned above) becomes crucial if a person is caught for another felony, such as another DUI or driving with a suspended license in California. If probation has expired, probation violation cannot prosper.

3.) A lesser fine

In principle, the maximum penalties for both VC §23103, California dry reckless, and a DUI in California is $1,000.8 [Ibid.].

In court-imposed "penalty assessments," many persons convicted of DUI face fines of up to $3000. However,, consequences for a dry reckless are often half or less of what a defendant would face if he/she gets convicted of a California DUI.

Also, the obligatory minimum fine for the reduced dry reckless charge is only $145, but the DUI is $390 [Vehicle Code §23103; See also Vehicle Code §23536, 23540, 23546 — DUI penalties]

4.) There is no requirement for a court-ordered license suspension

A DUI conviction in California results in a six-month driver's license suspension, which is extended if the individual has a prior DUI or wet reckless conviction [Vehicle Code §13352]

A dry reckless plea agreement under VC §23103, on the other hand, does not result in a license suspension. However, it does add two points to violator’s driving record which may lead to a negligent operator license suspension [Vehicle Code §12810– Traffic points.]

It should be emphasized, however, that the ultimate decision on whether a DUI suspect's license will be suspended is decided at a DMV administrative hearing, not in criminal court. To avoid a license suspension, DUI charges must be reduced to dry reckless in court and win at the California DMV.

5.) There will be no DUI school or, at best, a six-week curriculum

A DUI conviction in California requires a defendant to undergo a minimum three-month alcohol education program (18 months for repeated offenses). With a dry reckless conviction, there is no such requirement. [See Vehicle Code §23538]

Nevertheless, the prosecution and/or court may mandate a defendant to enroll in a six-week program as part of a negotiated dry reckless plea deal.

"Dry reckless" is Superior to a "Wet reckless"

Another popular plea deal from California DUI charges is a "wet reckless," VC §23103 per VC §23103.5.

A defendant pleads guilty to VC §23103 reckless driving with a wet reckless which is samewith a California dry reckless. Nonetheless, criminal record will mention that alcohol and/or drugs were used in the arrest [Vehicle Code §23103.5 – Wet reckless.]

The primary advantages of a dry reckless over a wet reckless are as follows:

a. A dry reckless violation is not "priorable" under California Vehicle Code §23103

DUIs and wet reckless convictions in California are both priorable crimes. This implies that if a person is convicted of either violation followed by a second or subsequent DUI within 10 years, his/her penalties will climb exponentially [Vehicle Code §23540]

A dry reckless in California, on the other hand, is NOT priorable—a benefit it shares with VC §23109(c) demonstration of speed, another typical DUI plea deal. Having a dry reckless conviction on record and later being convicted of DUIpenalizes a defendant as a first-time offender.

b. A careless driving conviction is "preferred" by insurance providers.

Unlike a California wet reckless or DUI conviction, a dry reckless driving conviction will not usually result in the termination ofvehicle insurance coverage or a significant increase of the premium.

It should also be emphasized that a California dry reckless would not attract the same level of attention as a DUI or "wet" reckless in terms of professional or commercial licensing. This is due to the fact that a dry reckless conviction is merely classified as misdemeanor reckless driving. Unlike a wet careless conviction in California, there is no inherent link with a DUI.

Circumstances when Prosecutors are likely to agree to reduce a DUI to a wet or dry reckless

Because a dry reckless in California is not a "priorable" violation, prosecutors are frequently hesitant to offer it as a DUI reduction. They would rather have a priorable wet reckless. Nonetheless, a prosecutor is more likely to agree to a dry reckless reduction when the following conditions are met:

1. The results of the defendant’s Blood Alcohol Concentration level was only close to 0.08%; and

2. The prosecution's evidence against the defendant has severe weaknesses.

The intricacies of the issues involved in the foregoing subject matter can lead to unfavorable results if the defendant hires an attorney not sufficiently focused in this area of the law, or otherwise ill-equipped to represent him/her. Our firm has decades of experience successfully defending clients in cases that are identical to or similar in this case. It is a best advice to contact us early for an appointment with one of our attorneys to prevent the challenges and issues that could occur from choosing a lawyer at the last minute.

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