A California DUI conviction can subject you to severe consequences, like driver's license suspension, fines, and jail time. The conviction will also stay on your criminal record, impacting various aspects of your life.

However, various plea bargains for DUI would result in less severe penalties upon a conviction. One of these plea bargains is a dry reckless charge. An experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer would negotiate a favorable plea deal for their client so they do not face severe penalties.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we strive to obtain our clients the best possible outcome for their cases, and that is why we employ every possible strategy, including plea negotiations. If charged with DUI in Chula Vista, contact us for help fighting your charges. If a dismissal is impossible, we will strive to obtain you a dry reckless plea deal if the facts of your case allow.

Dry Reckless Overview

If accused of driving under the influence, you might hear the phrase "dry reckless" sooner or later. This term is merely another name for reckless driving. The term "dry" differentiates this crime from the wet reckless offense in that a "dry reckless violation" is a reckless driving violation that is not alcohol-related. That is, a dry reckless is not DUI, while a wet reckless is because, unlike with a wet reckless, there is no indication on the record that drugs or alcohol were involved in the arrest with a dry reckless conviction.

In many cases, people accused of DUI violations may qualify for a charge reduction, and one of the lesser charges of DUI is dry reckless, as described under VC 23103. This means if charged with DUI, your defense attorney may successfully negotiate a dry reckless charge for you during plea bargaining.

If the evidence in their case is weak, the D.A. will usually grant the dry reckless plea deal. But your lawyer may need to challenge the prosecution’s case by showing them their case against you is weak to obtain this plea deal. A skilled DUI defense lawyer is essential to securing a favorable outcome.

Note that when arrested for a DUI of alcohol or drugs under California law, you will be subject to two distinct proceedings. The first proceeding is the criminal court case heard in the superior court, while the second is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) APS (administrative per se) hearing. A reckless driving plea bargain only solves the criminal court case; it does not influence the result of your administrative per se hearing by the DMV.

Dry Reckless as a Stand-Alone Crime

Apart from being a lesser included offense of DUI, a dry reckless charge is also an independent violation for which a person can be charged in criminal court. The prosecuting attorney must demonstrate these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to show you are criminally liable for reckless driving according to VC 23103:

  • You drove an automobile in an off-street parking facility or on a highway.
  • You deliberately drove the vehicle with wilful disregard for property or people's safety.

You act with wilful disregard for property or people's safety when you know that your actions bring about a substantial, unjustifiable threat of injury and then deliberately ignore that threat. You need not have intended to cause any damage to be convicted. Overspeeding alone is insufficient to prove you drove a car with wanton disregard for property or people's safety, but it qualifies as a factor in any determination.

A VC 23103 violation is deemed a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you will face a jail term of up to ninety days and a maximum fine of one thousand dollars. If your offense caused someone else to sustain an injury, the jail term would increase to a maximum of six months. The other party does not need to be severely hurt to be convicted. Even if they were merely bruised or scraped a little, that is enough to warrant a conviction.

Also, a reckless driving conviction will add two points to your driver’s license. These points will remain on your driving record for several years. If you amass four or more points within 12 months, the state will label you a negligent operator, and your driver’s license might be suspended or revoked. This will also happen if you amass six points within twenty-four months or eight points within thirty-six months.

You may also be subject to a one- to two-year informal probation period if convicted of reckless driving. Even though you will not be required to meet with your probation officer regularly, you will be ordered not to break the probation terms imposed against you.

Generally, probation terms for a reckless driving conviction include not violating any other law and paying court-ordered fines. Should you violate any probation term, the judge may revoke your probation and impose the full jail term for reckless driving, which is 90 days in jail. But if you successfully serve your probation sentence, you can file a petition in court requesting your conviction record be erased.

Advantages of a Dry Reckless Plea Deal

Pleading guilty to reckless driving instead of being convicted of DUI has significant benefits. These benefits include:

No DUI Education Program

When the judge convicts you of DUI, one of the penalties they can impose is the requirement that you enroll in DUI school for at least three months if you are a first offender or eighteen months if you are a second or subsequent offender. If you agree to the dry reckless plea bargain, this penalty does not exist. But as a condition of agreeing to the plea deal, the judge or D.A. may need you to enroll in a DUI School program for six weeks. Also, if you lose at the DMV hearing, you may be required to attend DUI school.

No Mandatory License Suspension by the Criminal Court

A DUI conviction prompts a six-month license suspension. This period could be longer if you have prior wet reckless or DUI convictions (the DMV might allow you to keep driving after installing an IID (ignition interlock device)).  

A plea bargain for reckless driving under VC 23103 does not prompt a driver's license suspension. However, as mentioned before, it adds two points to your driving record, which would contribute to the negligent operator title. The "negligent operator" title could lead to the suspension or revocation of your driving privilege.

Note that the final decision regarding whether or not you will lose your license lies with the DMV and not the court. This means that even though you may agree to plead guilty to reckless driving and avoid a driving privilege suspension, the DMV could still suspend your license if you lose at the APS hearing. Therefore, to avoid a driver's license suspension entirely, you must have your drunk-driving charges lowered to a dry reckless offense in criminal court and win at the DMV hearing.

A Lower Fine

Theoretically, the DUI and 23103 VC dry reckless fines are up to 1,000 dollars. But when you add court-ordered penalty assessments to this fine, most people found guilty of DUI will be subject to a fine of up to three thousand dollars. But the fines ordered in a dry reckless conviction are generally lower than those you would face if found criminally liable for DUl.

Additionally, the mandatory minimum fine after a dry reckless conviction is just 145 dollars, whereas that for a DUI is 390 dollars.

Shorter Probation Term

The probation term you will be sentenced to after pleading guilty to reckless driving charges will generally last only 12 or 24 months. On the contrary, the probation term for a DUI conviction typically ranges from three to five years. This benefit becomes crucial if charged with another offense, like driving on a suspended driver's license or another DUI. If you have successfully served probation, it then follows that the court cannot convict you of violating probation.

Shorter Jail Terms

Under 23103 VC, reckless driving will lead to you facing only up to ninety days in jail. On the other hand, a DUI conviction carries up to six months in jail (which will increase to 12 months for your second or subsequent DUI violation).

This difference is particularly essential in case you are found to have violated probation. Ninety days is the definite jail term limit for dry reckless charges, and this is far less than what you would face for violating probation after a drunk-driving conviction.

No Mandatory Sentence Enhancements for Repeat Offenders

When accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, obtaining a reckless driving deal is a highly preferred outcome. This is primarily because a dry reckless charge will not appear on your criminal record as a DUI. Additionally, unlike DUI, a dry reckless offense is non-priorable; a conviction is not considered a prior offense if you are rearrested for driving under the influence within the subsequent ten years.

Thus, if your first DUI charges are plea-bargained down to a dry reckless, and you are later rearrested within ten years for DUI, the prosecution will not consider the dry reckless as a prior. This means you will face only first-offense drunk-driving charges in the current case.

It then means that a dry reckless sentence will not automatically increase with every subsequent conviction, unlike driving under the influence charges. Although it is a fact that the judge may impose a harsher sentence if you are repeatedly found criminally liable for reckless driving, this is not mandatory like it is for multiple drunk-driving convictions.

No Requirement to Install an IID

After being convicted of DUI, the judge may order you to install an ignition interlock device in your car before continuing to drive. An IID is a small breathalyzer machine installed in a car's dashboard. You should have an IID installed professionally if the judge imposes IID installation as a penalty.

If there is an IID in your car, your breath must be free of alcohol whenever you start the vehicle. If not, your vehicle cannot start. Any attempt to disconnect your IID or disable its records will be detected. The period to install an IID varies based on the number of prior DUIs you have on your criminal record. If you are a first offender, the judge will require you to install the device for six months upon conviction.

The IID installation cost ranges between 75 and 100 dollars. You also must pay maintenance charges for the period the IID will be in your car. Defying the order to install an ignition interlock device after a drunk-driving conviction might lead to the DMV suspending your driver's license. When you agree to a dry reckless plea deal, the judge will not mandate you to install an IID. Thus, you can keep on driving your car even after being convicted.

The Auto Insurance Provider Will Not Cancel Your Insurance Policy

Insurance providers will likely ignore a reckless driving conviction and are less likely to cancel your auto insurance policy. Additionally, you will not be ordered to obtain an SR-22. Although, remember that a reckless driving conviction adds two points to your record.

The Difference Between Dry Reckless and Wet Reckless Plea Deals

A wet reckless per 23103/23103.5 VC is another prevalent plea deal for drunk-driving charges. With wet reckless charges, you enter a guilty plea to 23103 VC reckless driving, as you would for a dry reckless. But your conviction record will also include an annotation that drugs or alcohol were a factor in your case.

You can think of a wet reckless charge as the initial stage of the DUI plea negotiation process. It is often the initial plea bargain the prosecution will offer during plea negotiations for DUI. However, a dry reckless comes with several benefits over a wet reckless. Should the prosecuting attorney start by offering the wet reckless bargain during plea deal negotiations, it might be worth attempting to negotiate further down to the dry reckless deal.

The primary benefits of the dry reckless plea deal over the wet reckless bargain are:

Insurers Prefer a Conviction of Reckless Driving

Unlike a DUI or wet reckless conviction, a dry reckless conviction will not generally result in your car insurance policy being canceled or the skyrocketing of your premium.

Also, note that a dry reckless will not trigger similar scrutiny as wet reckless or DUI would in regards to commercial or professional licenses, as the violation is merely considered a misdemeanor reckless driving. Unlike a wet reckless violation, a dry reckless violation has no automatic link to a DUI.

A Dry Reckless Is Not Priorable

A wet reckless charge and DUI convictions are priorable crimes. This means if either crime appears on your criminal record and you are convicted again for another wet reckless or DUI within ten years, the penalties against you will increase significantly.

However, a dry reckless charge is non-priorable—the same benefit that the crime of exhibition of speed under 23109(c) VC, another prevalent DUI plea deal, has. As mentioned, if you were previously convicted of a VC 23103 dry reckless and are now facing another arrest for driving under the influence, the prosecuting attorney will charge you with a first-offense DUI in the current case.

A Wet Reckless Has Additional Informal Probation Terms

A wet reckless offense will generally include additional informal probation terms like the requirement to:

  • Not operate a vehicle with any alcohol amount (or narcotics) in your bloodstream, and
  • Agree to field sobriety tests (including the preliminary alcohol screening test) if the police pull you over on suspicions of DUI.

Generally, the probation terms are less severe for a dry reckless charge than for a wet reckless charge.

When the Prosecution Is Likely to Grant a Dry Reckless Plea Deal

Prosecutors usually aim to have you convicted of the most serious crime their evidence can support. Thus, obtaining any kind of plea bargain in a case is challenging. Most DAs will only agree to a plea deal to avoid dropping their case against you or if the deal serves their interests.

Particularly for the "dry reckless" plea deal in DUI cases, prosecutors are usually reluctant to grant it since it is not a priorable crime. They prefer granting a wet reckless deal because it is priorable. That said, the prosecution will most likely grant a reckless driving plea deal in two scenarios:

If Your Blood Alcohol Concentration Was Not Very Close to .08 Percent

Blood alcohol content results are crucial evidence in DUI cases. You violate California DUI statutes when you drive your car with a BAC of.08% or more. 0.08 percent BAC is the stipulated legal limit for non-commercial drivers. The greater your blood alcohol concentration, the greater your chance of being subject to a DUI conviction.

Negotiating for a DUI plea bargain usually depends on the blood alcohol concentration results. Thus, if your lawyer can prove your blood alcohol content was significantly lower than.08 percent at the time of driving, it could weaken the D.A.'s case. And based on whether there is other evidence apart from BAC test results, the prosecution may not drop your case but agree to the dry reckless deal, so you do not go unpunished. It is easier for the prosecution to prove you drive recklessly.

The Prosecution's Evidence Has Serious Flaws

Another element that may force the D.A. to grant you the "dry reckless deal" for your drunk-driving case is if their evidence against you has serious flaws, making it weak. Like other crimes, the DA must demonstrate that specific facts were present in your case for the judge to convict you. If they fail to prove even one element beyond any reasonable doubt, their case against you weakens.

An experienced DUI defense lawyer can contest the prosecution's evidence, weakening the case against you. Some areas of a DUI case where there is weakness include how the chemical DUI testing was done. Your lawyer can assert that the equipment used to conduct the test was not well calibrated or the blood sample was poorly stored.

Another DUI aspect that can lead to the weakening of the case is probable cause. If the police did not have probable cause to pull you over or arrest you for DUI, the prosecutor might not obtain a conviction. Your lawyer could assist you in assessing how your arrest happened and whether law enforcement officers followed proper guidelines.

If the D.A. determines their evidence is weak and might not secure a conviction for DUI, they can agree to convict you of reckless driving.

Expunging Your Dry Reckless Record

Even though a reckless driving offense is less severe than a DUI or wet reckless, a conviction will still appear on your criminal record. This means if someone conducts a background check against you, they will be able to see you were convicted of a dry reckless offense.

The good news is that you can request a record expungement, just like with a DUI conviction. A reckless driving conviction remains on your DMV record for thirteen years, which may impact your life, including securing employment (particularly if you are a commercial driver and your driving records matter to the employer).

You qualify for a conviction record expungement if you successfully serve your jail term or probation sentence, whichever was imposed. If you violate a probation term, the judge may still agree to your expungement request, although it will be at their discretion.

You can seek a lawyer's help to expunge your criminal record. You also must pay the fees required for the procedure. Some advantages of expunging your criminal record include the following:

  • You need not disclose the dry reckless conviction to licensing bodies.
  • You can rent an apartment, secure a loan, or enroll in college, as the conviction will not reflect in background checks.
  • Employers will not need to check your criminal record except if theirs is a conditional employment offer.
  • An employer cannot use a deleted record to disregard you for employment.

However, it is worth noting that an expungement will not reverse a live suspension or revocation

Find a Defense Attorney Near Me

If arrested or charged with DUI, consulting a criminal defense lawyer is your best bet to receive the best possible outcome. A skilled lawyer will review your case to determine the best defense strategy based on the case facts. If the case is airtight, we at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney will go further to negotiate a favorable plea deal, so you do not have to stand trial. Contact us today at 619-877-6894 for a cost-free consultation, during which you will learn more about how we can help you.