Much of the negotiations between prosecutors and DUI defense attorneys involve reducing a DUI charge to a wet reckless or a dry reckless. Both of these reduced charges fall under California Vehicle Code 23103, the statute defining reckless driving.
The difference between the two is that a “wet reckless” is a special form of reckless driving in which the record of conviction specifies that alcohol was involved. The “wet” version of reckless driving counts as the functional equivalent of a DUI conviction.
Suppose, for example, that a person pleads guilty to a reduced charge of wet reckless. Now suppose he gets arrested and convicted of a DUI charge within 10 years. The new DUI will count as a second offense, and second-time penalties are exponentially greater. Even though the first DUI got reduced to a wet reckless, the law still treats it as a prior DUI conviction.
A dry reckless under California law, however, does not count as a DUI prior. If a person with a dry reckless conviction picks up another DUI, the new DUI gets treated as a first offense.
We believe this distinction is of great importance. Many clients say “I'm not worried about ‘priorability.' I learned my lesson. I'll never pick up another DUI.” But 10 years is a long time. Many things can happen. People unexpectedly pick up second DUIs all the time. For that reason, it's always better to negotiate a DUI down to a dry rather than a wet reckless. (Refer to our article, "Can a plea bargain help me in California DUI cases?")