California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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Being arrested for and charged with DUI in California is a stressful experience. For many people, the prospect of a DUI plea bargain to a reduced charge is a relief–and a greatly preferable alternative to the ordeal of a criminal trial for DUI.
But it is important to know exactly what you are getting with a plea bargain from DUI charges–and whether you are getting the best deal possible.
A so-called “wet reckless” is the first offer many prosecutors will present to a DUI defendant who is interested in negotiating a charge reduction. A wet reckless is basically a Vehicle Code 23103 VC misdemeanor reckless driving conviction–except with a notation on the record that alcohol and/or drugs were involved in the arrest that led to the conviction.
Unlike a DUI, a wet reckless does not lead to an automatic driver’s license suspension. For many defendants, that, plus avoiding the stigma of a DUI, is enough incentive to take the deal.
But there are two things that it’s important to know about a wet reckless plea bargain. First, it is “priorable” like a DUI. This means that if you are arrested for DUI again at any point in the next 10 years, you will be treated as a repeat offender and face more severe penalties.
Second, car insurance companies treat wet reckless convictions very similarly to DUI convictions. This means you have a good chance of having your premium increased–or your policy canceled–the next time your car insurance is up for renewal.
A better deal, if you can get it, is a California “dry reckless” as a DUI plea bargain.
A dry reckless is just an ordinary reckless driving conviction, without a specification that alcohol or drugs were involved in the offense. It will NOT increase your penalties for any subsequent DUIs, and your car insurance company is unlikely to take it as seriously as a wet reckless.
The DUI plea bargain deal you are eventually able to get will depend on the facts of your case, the prosecutor’s evidence, the prosecutor’s personality–and the skill of your DUI defense attorney.
And your own preferences will play a part too. Accepting a plea bargain offer from the prosecutor makes more sense for people who do not want to deal with the risk or stress of taking their DUI case to trial.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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