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The term “wet reckless” refers to type of charge obtained through pre-trial negotiations that allows a defendant to receive a lesser charge in lieu of the normal DUI offense. Clearly, the intent behind seeking a violation of Vehicle Code 23103 in place of Vehicle Code sections 23152(a) or 23152(b), is to avoid the negative consequences of a DUI. If the prosecution agrees that the circumstances support offerring this lesser charge, and the court accepts the agreement, the DUI charges are dismissed and the defendant pleas to the VC 23103 offense.

In carrying out this process, the prosecution has to provide a factual basis on the court record as to the circumstances of the case and whether alcohol or drugs were a factor. The mere mentioning of the use of drugs or alcohol is important at this stage, because it can have an effect on how the court imposes probation. If the district attorney has alleged the use of alcohol or controlled substances during the factual basis, the court must make the defendant complete an AB 541 program (drug and alcohol program) as a condition of probation. It should be noted however that the AB 541 class for a defendant with a wet reckless if often shorter in duration than the class required for those convicted of the DUI section.

In some cases, a defendant may be able to avoid the AB 541 class altogether if he or she is able to prove “compelling circumstances” that would convince the court to forgo ordering the program. However, there is no real rule or guidance as to what situations would satisfy this standard. Rather it is done on a case by case basis.

Although a wet reckless charge provides some benefits over a VC 23152 offense, it still has some negative aspects to it. The VC 23103 charge is a two point violation that will affect the defendant's DMV record and car insurance rates. Other DMV actions may occur as well depending on the defendant's driving record and the presence of other license suspensions. There are also fines that will be assessed and in some cases potential jail time or work project. Furthermore, a conviction of VC 23103 will also be a “priorable” offense that can be counted in a subsequent DUI case for the purposes of enhancing (or lengthening) the sentence.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to obtaining a wet reckless plea offer is that this charge itself will not be subject to enhancements. This helps the defendant by not exposing them to additional jail time, fines, or other requirements based on prior convictions for DUIs. Thus, regardless if the defendant qualifies for an enhancement for the current DUI matter because he or she drove with a minor in the car (under 14), had a BAC above 0.20%, refusal to submit to testing, had a prior(s) DUI, or speeding, he or she will not be subject to those enhancements if the charge is plead to as a wet reckless.

References & Resources:

Vehicle Code 23152(a)

Vehicle Code 23152(b)

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