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California Dry Reckless Plea Bargain

California Vehicle Code §23103 specifically deals with the offense of reckless driving. According to this statute, a person is guilty of reckless driving when he or she operates a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.[1] This is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of at least $145, and 2 points on the person’s driver’s license.[2]

When a person charged with a DUI charge agrees to plead to a reckless driving charge (not involving alcohol) instead, it what is known as a "dry reckless" plea. This is considered a favorable plea bargain because compared to a DUI conviction, a reckless driving conviction carries significantly less harsh penalties. The penalties for a dry reckless are a reduced version of what penalties you might receive if you were convicted for a DUI. It has a shorter probation period lower fines and does not involve driver’s license suspension. The penalties for a dry reckless conviction generally include:

  • 1 to 5 years misdemeanor probation
  • 90 days of jail
  • fines up to $1000 plus court fees

To help give you a better understanding of a dry reckless plea bargain, our West Covina defense attorneys will discuss some important differences between a dry reckless offense against other California Vehicle Code offenses.

1. Dry Reckless vs DUI

As mentioned earlier a dry reckless simply means that a person that would have been charged with a DUI, plea to a lesser offense of reckless driving. With a dry reckless, your record will not reflect that the offense involved alcohol or drugs.

A dry reckless plea bargain is considered more favorable to a DUI conviction due to the less harsh penalties compared to that of a DUI.

Compared to a DUI, a dry reckless is not a “priorable." This means that the sentence for a dry reckless does not become harsher for subsequent commissions of the offense. The sentence for a DUI increases with each subsequent conviction. Although the judge may impose harsher penalties with each subsequent conviction of a dry reckless (depending on the judge's discretion), the sentence enhancement is not mandatory unlike that with a DUI.

A dry reckless only carries with it up to 90 days county jail sentence, while a DUI conviction will normally entail 6 months county jail sentence (1 year for second and third offense). This distinction is particularly important for purposes of probation violations. With a dry reckless, 90 days jail time is the absolute maximum jail time a person can serve.

The probation period is also shorter for a dry reckless, normally lasting between 1 to 2 years. A DUI will entail probation between 3 to 5 years.

The fines are also less for a dry reckless compared to a DUI. The minimum fine for a dry reckless is $145 while the minimum for a DUI is $390. The maximum fine for a dry reckless is $1000 while a DUI will entail costs of up to $3000.

Another important distinction is the imposition of driver’s license suspension. With a DUI conviction, it will trigger a court-mandated driver’s license suspension that can last for 6 months, and it can last longer if you have prior. Take note that with the passage of Senate Bill No. 1046 (2018), a person convicted of a DUI may continue driving provided that they have an interlock device installed in their vehicle.[3] A dry reckless will not trigger driver’s license suspension but it will add 2 points to your driving record. However, the ultimate decision to suspend a person’s driver’s license lies with the DMV. To avoid a license suspension, you must schedule a DMV hearing within 10 days from being arrested for DUI, and then win your case during the DMV hearing.

A DUI will also require you to attend, for at least 3 months, an alcohol education program (It is extended to 18 months for those with DUI priors). With a dry reckless, you will not be required to attend an alcohol education program. However, it is important to note that the alcohol education program might be included as part of the plea bargain by the prosecutor or judge.

2. Dry Reckless vs Wet Reckless

A wet reckless is also a plea bargain to a lesser offense to a DUI. The difference between a dry reckless and wet reckless is that a wet reckless will indicate in your record if the offense involved alcohol or drugs while a dry reckless will not.

A wet reckless is also a “priorable” offense. This means that the sentence gets harsher for subsequent convictions of a wet reckless. Unlike a wet reckless, a dry reckless is not “priorable”. This is the main advantage of a dry reckless.

Similar to a DUI, a wet reckless can lead to the cancellation of your vehicle's car insurance or cause it to become significantly more expensive. This is not the case when it comes to a dry reckless.

Because a wet reckless is closely associated with a DUI, it will lead to harsher scrutiny for professional drivers or commercial drivers. A dry reckless, on the other hand, is merely recorded as a reckless driving offense and will not indicate on your record that the offense is related to alcohol or drugs.

3. Plea Bargaining for a Dry Reckless

As mentioned earlier, a dry reckless is not priorable. Most prosecutors will hesitate to agree to a dry reckless charge instead of a DUI or a wet reckless. However, the prosecutor will be more likely to agree to a dry reckless if:

  • your BAC is close to 0.08%
  • there are serious flaws with the evidence against you

Mistakes happen. Harsh Penalties Don’t Have To.

A DUI charge is a difficult thing to manage and navigate on your own. However, things are not as hopeless as they appear to be. Pleading to a lesser offense like a dry reckless might be an option to consider as it can be less disruptive to your life compared to having a DUI conviction on your record. Consult and secure the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney to assist you in navigating the legal complexities of these charges. You will want to avoid a DUI conviction at all costs because it can have severe effects on your life. Although we are fielding inquiries from a lot of people in similar situations, we will do our best to put you in contact with an experienced lawyer from our firm.

If you need assistance with a DUI charge, do not hesitate to contact us at ​​​​​​(626) 827-7222 to schedule your consultation with one of our experienced attorneys at no cost.


[1] California Vehicle Code §23103 (a)

[2] California Vehicle Code §23103 (c)

[3] California Senate Bill No. 1046 (2018)

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