When a person has never been in trouble with the law, an arrest for DUI (driving under the influence) might be terrifying. Your job, your driving privilege, and even your freedom could be lost. Where can you turn for help? What are your options?
In Los Angeles County and most of southern California, defendants accused of first-offense, misdemeanor DUI are usually given the option to take a plea deal. Those defendants will need advice from an experienced DUI defense lawyer to help with assessing the plea bargain offer.
HOW ARE MOST CRIMINAL CASES RESOLVED IN OUR STATE?
Plea bargains resolve most of the criminal cases in California, including DUI cases. Without plea bargains, every case would become a jury trial, and the justice system would quickly become overcrowded and unworkable.
A plea arrangement is worked out between a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. The goal of these negotiations is to resolve a criminal case without the need for a trial.
In most plea bargain scenarios, a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge, and accepts the penalties for that charge. In return, the state drops the greater charge against the defendant.
WHO CAN CHARGE A SUSPECT WITH WET RECKLESS?
If you’re arrested and charged with DUI in this state, you should know what the “wet reckless” charge is. The police do not accuse a motorist of wet reckless – it is exclusively a charge which is used by prosecutors to persuade DUI defendants to avoid a trial and take a plea arrangement.
For California DUI defendants who plead guilty to wet reckless, the conviction results in fewer penalties, expenses, and obligations than a DUI conviction.
WHO IS OFFERED A WET RECKLESS PLEA ARRANGEMENT?
California prosecutors may allow a misdemeanor driving under the influence suspect to enter a no contest plea to a reckless driving charge. It is in effect a conviction without an admission of guilt. The word “wet” indicates that alcohol played some role in the conviction.
This plea deal is not presented to all DUI defendants – in fact, a deal is usually only offered to first offenders if the defendant’s blood alcohol measurement was close to the 0.08 percent limit and if there were no injuries, property damage, or other related charges.
If the case against a defendant is strong and a guilty verdict is likely at a trial, taking the plea bargain and pleading no contest to wet reckless may be the defendant’s best option.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TAKING A WET RECKLESS PLEA DEAL?
Because a DUI conviction can be an employment obstacle, taking the plea deal lets those accused of DUI sidestep DUI-related difficulties with their employment.
If you are charged with driving under the influence, pleading no contest to wet reckless can help you avoid jail and help you retain your job, but you should also understand what the wet reckless conviction cannot do.
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may still suspend your driver’s license temporarily, and your auto insurance costs are guaranteed to go up.
A Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer might help you keep your license – after your DUI arrest, you have ten days to ask the DMV for a hearing to contest the imminent license suspension – but your attorney can’t do anything about your insurance premiums.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A WET RECKLESS CONVICTION?
No jail time is mandatory if you are convicted of wet reckless, but at the judge’s discretion, a defendant could receive a ninety-day jail sentence. If you are offered a plea bargain for a DUI charge, discuss the possibility of jail with your defense lawyer before you sign anything.
Usually, the probation term is only a year or two for a wet reckless conviction; probation for DUI can last as long as five years. Perhaps the best benefit of taking a wet reckless plea bargain, however, is that you can probably have the conviction expunged when the sentence is complete.
However, after you accept a wet reckless plea deal, if you face any DUI-related charge in California in the subsequent ten-year period, the wet reckless conviction is treated as a previous driving under the influence conviction.
In other words, if you are convicted of wet reckless, and if you are charged with DUI five or seven years later, that charge will be treated as your second offense for DUI.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A DUI DEFENSE LAWYER?
Any California driver who’s arrested and prosecuted for DUI is in genuine legal trouble, whether it’s your first offense or you’ve been through the process before. If you become a DUI suspect in the Los Angeles area, you must speak at once to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.
Of course, if you are innocent of driving under the influence, you probably will not want to take a plea deal, and you shouldn’t.
In this situation, your defense lawyer will try to have the charge dismissed, and if that is not possible, your lawyer will take your case to trial and ask a jury to return a not guilty verdict. You will want to discuss your defense strategy with your attorney and heed his or her advice.
Before you accept or reject any plea deal, review it with your DUI defense attorney to make sure that you fully understand the plea bargain’s conditions, terms, and consequences.
IS THERE A “DRY” RECKLESS CHARGE?
In very narrow circumstances, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain for “dry” reckless (or “simple” reckless driving). This plea deal places two points on your driver’s license, but compared to a DUI conviction, a dry reckless plea deal must be considered a good result.
Of course, if you don’t mix drinking and driving, you don’t have to be worried about DUI, wet reckless, or dry reckless. Taxis, limos, and rideshare services in the Los Angeles area are available “24/7/365.”
A ride for hire may cost you several dollars, but it’s far less costly than a ride to jail, the ER, or the morgue. Still, if you’re arrested for driving under the influence, an experienced California DUI attorney can help – and having a good attorney’s help is your right.