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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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?“)
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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