If you drive carelessly without regard to other road users' safety in California, you are charged with reckless driving. The crime is considered a misdemeanor offense, but it is quite lenient compared to other vehicular crimes such as DUI.
However, this doesn’t mean that the penalties are favorable. You could be sentenced to jail and probation for many years. Dry reckless is a part of the California plea bargain for DUI offenses. Your defense attorney will negotiate a dry reckless charge when charged with driving under the influence instead of facing a DUI conviction in a trial.
If charged with any DUI offense in California, you need an attorney who will help you fight the charges and possibly face a lighter charge, such as dry reckless. Our attorneys at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm are experienced in all the DUI cases. Contact us today to review your case and offer efficient legal counsel.
Definition of Dry Reckless as Per California Law
When arrested for a DUI charge, the prosecutor can consider reducing your DUI charge to either wet reckless or dry reckless. Wet reckless involves driving under the influence of alcohol, while dry reckless involves reckless driving without alcohol. Both offenses are part of a plea bargain agreement that you make with the prosecutor.
The advantages of a dry reckless charge are the crime is not priorable. Even if you are charged for a DUI offense in the future, the offense will still be considered as a first-time offense. Also, in a dry reckless charge, the auto insurance won't cancel your insurance policy or increase your premiums.
If charged with a DUI, you can plead guilty to dry reckless according to California Vehicle Code 23103 VC. The penalties of dry reckless are much lenient compared to that of a DUI charge. The term reckless driving is defined as driving willfully without considering the safety of other road users.
Keep in mind that having a DUI charge won’t mean that you’ll have your sentence automatically reduced to a dry reckless. Depending on the circumstance of your case, the prosecutor may refuse to offer you the plea bargain. If you are arrested over a DUI charge, your attorney may advise you to plead to a dry reckless charge, and here is why:
There is No Mandatory Sentencing.Dry reckless has no mandatory sentencing after a repeat offense. The judge may make your punishment harsher if you repeat the crime, but there won't be an enhancement on your sentence.
The Probation Period is Shorter.The probation period for a dry reckless is relatively shorter compared to that of a DUI offense. For a dry reckless, it is up to two years, while DUI can last up to five years. However, if charged with DUI alongside other crimes, you won't be eligible for probation. Also, if you commit another crime within your probation period, you won't be eligible for another probation.
Jail Term is shorter.The jail term for a dry reckless is 90 days in a county prison while the DUI jail term is six months for a first offense and up to one year for a repeat offense.
No License Suspension. When you commit a DUI offense, you will automatically receive a court-issued license suspension for six months. The six months may be further increased if you have prior convictions. However, a dry reckless charge doesn't trigger a vehicle license suspension.
No Mandatory Program. As part of a DUI penalty, the law requires that you attend an alcohol reduction program that can last until three months.
A Reduced Fine. A fine for both dry reckless and DUI charge is $1000. However, the fine for a DUI can go up to $3000 if you add all the court assessment penalties.
No Ignition Interlock Device. If you are a first-time offender or a repeat offender for a DUI charge in California, an ignition interlock device will be installed in your vehicles for up to four years.
Elements of the Crime
In a dry reckless charge, the prosecutor must show that certain elements exist for you to stand trial:
- You drove the vehicle in a highway or an off-street parking area
- You had a wanton disregard for other road users
The law defines a highway as an open area for the public to use while an off-street parking area is a designated location opened to public members to park their vehicles. Wanton disregard, on the other hand, is considered as the awareness of a person's actions. When you act deliberately, knowing your actions' repercussions but choose to ignore them, that is an offense. The prosecutor won't necessarily consider speed as part of the wanton disregard but contribute to it.
Reducing DUI to Dry Reckless
Dry reckless is part of a plea bargain agreement between your defense attorney and the prosecutor. For the prosecutor to agree to dry reckless, your attorney should prove the following:
- DUI Evidence is Weak
Your DUI charge could be easily reduced to dry reckless if the evidence supporting the case is weak. Your attorney will negotiate by showing the evidence available is not strong enough to hold in a trial. However, it’s upon the prosecutor to decide whether to offer you the deal or not.
First DUI Offense
As a first-time offender charged with a DUI offense, the prosecutor can consider offering you a dry reckless as part of a plea bargain. Your defense attorney should show that it's your first DUI offense for you to get the plea bargain.
Low Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits
According to California law, it's illegal to operate a motor vehicle with an alcohol batch higher than 0.08%. If your defense attorney proves that your BAC levels were lower than 0.08%, the prosecutor could offer you a plea bargain.
In some instances, the prosecutor may charge you with a wet reckless charge. Wet reckless is an offense caused when driving while intoxicated. However, in a wet reckless, the alcohol levels are not higher than that of a DUI charge.
If there were any constitutional violations from the arresting officer during your arrest or police stop, the prosecutor could offer you a plea bargain. It’s not stated in the constitution that you must take a dry reckless as a plea bargain, you can refuse if you want to, but it’s in your best interest if you take it.
Also, keep in mind that not all DUI charges are reduced to reckless driving. It’s upon the prosecutor to decide whether to offer you the plea or not; not even the judge or your attorney can amend the charges.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in California, which is considered a discretionary arrest. A discretionary arrest means a law enforcement officer can arrest you or issue you with a citation. To be issued with a dry reckless plea, the police must first arrest you for DUI. The police can make a DUI or reckless driving arrest in the following instances:
- If they witness you driving carelessly
- If there is a report that you were driving recklessly and the police perform a field sobriety test on you
If you are reported for violating a traffic offense, for instance, weaving on the road, the police from the jurisdiction you were driving in will respond. The officer will approach you and determine whether you were indeed in violation of the traffic laws. If there is any probable cause such as intoxication, they will arrest you. However, according to section 836 of the penal code, misdemeanor offense should not be subject to arrest without a warrant from the judge unless the officer witnesses it.
However, questions always arise as to whether you can be charged for DUI even when not driving. According to Section 40300.5 of the California Vehicle Code, law enforcement officers can arrest you for a DUI offense even if you were not driving as long the officer has probable cause.
One probable cause is if the key is in the ignition. Even with this, it’s still challenging to prosecute a DUI offense which the officer did not witness. Because of this, your attorney could have the charge reduced to dry reckless.
Here is what will happen If the police witness you driving recklessly:
Pull You Over
If you were swerving or violated any traffic rules, the police will pull you over. However, if the police had no probable cause to stop you, you can challenge the court's arrest.
Identification and Questioning
After the stop, the police will ask for your identification, which consists of your driver’s license and registration documents. While you present these documents, the police will be taking note of your behavior. He/she will observe whether you are intoxicated or fumbling around. Keep in mind any action you portray will be written on the police report and used in court.
The officer may also ask whether you've taken any alcohol. Remember, anything you say to the police will act as evidence against you. It is essential to remember to stay silent or ask for an attorney if you think you might get into more trouble.
If you have any incriminating evidence in your vehicle, the police can perform a car search without a warrant. But in other instances, the police may ask for your consent before performing the search.
If the police suspect you are intoxicated with alcohol, they will also perform a roadside test. The tests are meant to confirm the police suspicions. The standards tests are field sobriety tests (FSTs) and breathalyzer.
Field Sobriety Tests
Some common field sobriety tests that police use in California are: horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk and turn, and the one-leg stand.
A breathalyzer, also known as a portable breath test (PBT), involves a device that the police use to test the amount of alcohol in your body. You are required to breathe into the device for it to measure the alcohol.
During an alcohol test administration, the arresting officer may make a few mistakes that could lead to a dismissal of your DUI charge. The errors include:
Failure to Administer the Test Properly
The police have to administer the test properly; otherwise, the defense attorney will challenge the court's procedure.
A Malfunctioned Device
The device has to function for it to read the alcohol content properly.
Not Observing the Suspect Properly Before the Test
The police have to have a probable cause for them to administer the test. One example is the smell of alcohol or fumbling. If you did not exhibit this behavior, then there was no reason for the arrest.
Arrest and Detention
If you fail the test and the police believe they have a probable cause, they will cuff you and drive you to the police station for booking. At the station, the police will take away your driver's license. You will then be booked until you pay bail money or if the judge decides to release you on your recognizance.
If released with a promise to appear in court, you can reach out to an attorney. Your attorney will look at the case's facts and determine the best way to handle the arraignment. At the arraignment, your attorney will receive the police report concerning the case. If the evidence is weak, your attorney can challenge it. At this point, your attorney can choose to either dismiss the charges or reduce it to dry reckless.
Penalties for a Dry Reckless
The penalties for a dry reckless charge are much more lenient than a DUI Vehicle Code 23152(a) or Vehicle Code 23152(b). These penalties include:
- 90 days in jail
- A probation period of between one year to five years
- $1000 fine
However, if you cause minor injuries or major injuries to another person while driving recklessly, the penalties could increase.
If you cause a minor injury to a pedestrian or another motorist, you will serve a one-year sentence in jail and pay a fine of up to $1000. If you cause serious injuries to a third party, you will pay a fine of up to $10000 and serve a jail term of up to three years in state prison.
Two points will be added to your driver's license by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if you are convicted. If you are convicted for the second time, your license will be suspended.
The good thing about a reckless charge is that it does not have any immigration consequences, unlike other California convictions. A conviction does not also affect your rights to own a gun, but only if charged with a misdemeanor. For a felony conviction, you won’t own or even possess a gun.
- Reckless Driving Causing Injury
It is a violation to drive recklessly and injure a person, according to Vehicle Code 23104 VC. The offense carries a $1000 fine and detention of six months in county jail. However, instead of a jail term, the judge may award you probation.
- Wet Reckless
According to California Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC, a wet reckless charge is a reckless driving offense in which alcohol was the cause. The alcohol content was not high enough for the crime to be DUI or non-existent to be dry reckless in a wet reckless. The crime is part of a prosecutor's plea bargain deal when the prosecutor's DUI evidence is weak. The penalties for a wet reckless charge are much lower compared to that of a DUI.
According to California Vehicle Code 23109, it is unlawful to participate in a speed contest willingly. Some examples of speed contents include street racing or competing with another vehicle on a highway. The crime is charged as a misdemeanor offense with a jail term of up to 90days in county jail or a fine of up to $1000. However, this only applies if it’s your first conviction. For subsequent offenses, the penalties will increase.
If you were arrested for only reckless driving without any alcohol involved, your attorney could challenge the prosecutor's evidence against you. Some of the legal defense that your attorney could use include:
You Were Not Driving Recklessly
For the prosecutor to get a conviction against, he /she must prove that you were indeed driving recklessly if there is no much evidence to prove that your attorney could argue that you were not driving carelessly.
You Were Not the Driver
Your attorney could also argue that you were not the driver of the vehicle. The law is clear that you have to be driving for you to be charged for an act of reckless driving.
Your attorney could also argue that even though you were indeed driving carelessly, you had sufficient reason to do so. For instance, if you had an emergency such as rushing a patient to a hospital, then the court could be lenient with you. However, your attorney has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an emergency.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I never moved the car? Can I still be charged with reckless driving?
Yes. The law states that the officer must witness you driving recklessly to be convicted of the crime. If the prosecutor can show you had control of the vehicle, such as the key in the ignition, you could be charged with the crime.
If the car engine is running, will that count as an offense?
The arresting officer will assume that you were driving if your engine is running. Some other circumstantial evidence that the police may focus on includes if you are in an accident scene and lack of an alternate driver.
What if the police violated my rights during the arrest?
The police have to follow the law even when arresting a suspect of a crime. The police will not arrest you without probable cause. However, if they perform an illegal search during the arrest, your attorney could have the charge dismissed or the evidence collected during the arrest suppressed.
Can I have my records expunged if I plead guilty to dry reckless?
Yes. According to 1203.4 PC of the California penal code, you can bring a petition to have your record expunged after successfully serving your probation. However, for you to be eligible, you must not be:
- Currently serving time in prison
- Charged for a criminal offense
- Probation for a criminal offense
What is the difference between dry reckless and wet reckless?
The major difference between dry and wet reckless is whether there were drugs or alcohol involved. The reckless dry term is used when the prosecutor offers you a plea bargain for a DUI offense. Most of the time, dry reckless as plea bargain doesn’t mean that you were necessarily driving recklessly. Whereas wet reckless is a priorable offense, dry reckless isn’t.
Should I accept a dry reckless plea?
If the prosecutor offers you a dry reckless plea after being charged with a DUI offense, it’s in your best interest to accept it. However, it’s not written in the constitution that you have to take it. A prosecutor will offer you the plea only if they think they have weak evidence that could convict you of the DUI.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
A DUI conviction can taint your record and deny you several privileges. So, if the prosecutor offers a dry reckless plea deal, then it's in your best interest to take it. Besides a reduced sentence, you will also get lesser fines and probation. Keep in mind that the prosecutor may not always offer you a plea deal when you are charged with DUI. It's upon your defense attorney to provide evidence showing that you deserve a dry reckless charge.
At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney firm, we understand the consequences of a DUI charge. For this reason, you should reach out to us if you or anyone you know has been arrested. We are well skilled and experienced to handle causes involving DUI, and we will help minimize the charges. You can reach us at 310-564-2605 for any questions you may have.