"Dry Reckless" Plea Bargains in California DUI Cases

As part of defending against a drunk driving charge, a seasoned California DUI lawyer will engage in DUI plea bargaining with the prosecutor in an effort to get the charge and the penalties lessened.  One of the lesser offenses is a "dry reckless" driving charge under Vehicle Code 23103.

In this article, our California DUI lawyers will provide a comprehensive guide to understanding the benefits of a California "dry" reckless charge by addressing the following:

1. What is California Dry Reckless Driving under California Vehicle Code 23103 VC?
2. Why are the Advantages of a California Dry Reckless over a California Wet Reckless?
3. When is a California DUI Typically Reduced to California Dry Reckless?

If after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us.

1. What is "Dry Reckless" Driving under Vehicle Code 23103 VC?

A "dry reckless" is simply misdemeanor reckless driving pursuant to Vehicle Code 23103 VC.  Reckless driving is defined as driving with a flagrant disregard for people or property.             When a "dry" is negotiated for in a California DUI plea bargain.as opposed to being charged as a crime in and of itself.we distinguish it from another popular charge reduction -- a California wet reckless.

As you can probably guess, a wet reckless refers to an alcohol or drug related driving offense.

A California dry reckless has significant advantages over a California DUI.  These include:

  • No mandatory sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders

Unlike a California DUI, the sentence for a dry reckless does not automatically increase with each subsequent conviction.  While it is true that a judge may sentence you harsher if you are repeatedly convicted of reckless driving, there is no mandatory requirement for doing so like there is with multiple DUI convictions.

  • Shorter county jail sentence

Under Vehicle Code 23103 VC, a dry reckless only subjects you to a maximum 90-day county jail sentence.  By contrast, a California DUI carries a maximum six-month sentence (which increases to one year for a second or third offense).

This distinction is particularly important in the event you that you suffer a probation violation probation.  90 days will be the absolute limit that you can be sentenced to for the dry reckless charge, which is half (if not a quarter) of what you'd face for a DUI conviction.

  • Shorter probation period

Probation for a dry reckless conviction will typically only last one or two years.  Probation for a California DUI typically lasts between three and five years.

This advantage (like the one stated above) becomes critical in the event that you unfortunately get arrested for another crime, such as another DUI or driving with a suspended license in California.  If your probation has expired, it follows that you can't be sentenced for a probation violation.

  • A reduced fine

The potential maximum fine for both a California dry reckless and a California DUI is $1,000.  However, the mandatory minimum fine for the dry is only $145, where the DUI is $390.  But the "net" amounts are usually triple or more when county penalty assessments get added.

Similarly, even if you are required to pay more than the mandatory minimum, your fine in a dry reckless would typically only be about half of what you would pay if convicted of a DUI.

  • No mandatory court-ordered license suspension

A California DUI conviction triggers a six-month driver's license suspension, longer if the person has prior DUI or wet reckless convictions.  But a dry reckless under California Vehicle Code 23103 VC does not trigger a license suspension (although it adds 2 points to your driving record, which could contribute to a negligent operator license suspension).

  • No DUI school or, at the most, a six-week program

A California DUI conviction mandates that you complete a minimum three-month alcohol education program, 18 months for multiple offenders.  There is no such requirement with a dry reckless conviction.

However, as part of a negotiated plea bargain, the prosecutor and/or judge may require that you participate in a six-week program.

It should also be noted that a California dry reckless won't invite the same scrutiny that a DUI or "wet" reckless would with respect to professional or commercial licenses.  This is because a dry reckless conviction is simply recorded as misdemeanor reckless driving.  Unlike a California wet reckless conviction, there is no automatic association with a DUI.

2. What are the Advantages of a California Dry Reckless over a California Wet Reckless?

There are two major benefits that distinguish a California dry reckless from a California wet reckless.

  • A dry reckless under California Vehicle Code 23103 VC isn't "priorable"

California DUIs and wet reckless convictions are both priorable offenses.  This means that if you have a conviction for either offense, and then have the misfortune of being convicted of a second or subsequent DUI within a ten-year period, your penalties will increase exponentially.

A California dry reckless does not trigger this same action.  If you have a dry reckless conviction on your record, and subsequently get convicted of a DUI, you will still be sentenced as a first-time DUI offender.

  • Insurance companies "prefer" a reckless driving conviction

Unlike a California wet reckless or California DUI conviction, a dry reckless driving conviction will not typically lead to a cancellation of your policy or cause your premium to skyrocket.

3. When is a California DUI Typically Reduced to California Dry Reckless?

Because a California dry reckless isn't a "priorable" offense, prosecutors hesitate to offer it as a DUI reduction.  That said, a prosecutor is most likely to agree to a dry reckless reduction when:

  1. your BAC is close to 0.08%, and
  2. there are serious flaws with the "People's" case against you.

Let me give you a couple examples to illustrate the point.

  • Sally was arrested by the Long Beach Police Department for DUI and her blood sample came back a .10 BAC.  Sally's Long Beach DUI criminal defense lawyer was able to negotiate a dry reckless because (1) a defense retesting of the blood revealed that the original vial contained an insufficient amount of preservative, (2) the blood got drawn nearly two hours after her DUI investigation began, and (3) Sally had an otherwise spotless driving and no criminal record.
  • Rick was arrested in Beverly Hills for DUI.  Although he was very polite to the officer who conducted his DUI investigation, Rick refused a chemical test.  Despite the fact that a "refusal" typically invites an enhanced sentence.

The prosecutor reduced the charge because the arresting officer, who testified at a pretrial motion, wasn't articulate or credible enough to convince a reasonable jury that Rick was DUI without a corroborating blood or breath sample.

Call us for help
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If you or loved one is charged with dry reckless DUI and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

To learn how to reduce a DUI to reckless driving in Nevada, see our article on how to reduce a DUI to reckless driving in Nevada.

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