The Difference Between a DUI and a Wet and Reckless in California

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A DUI, or driving under the influence, conviction is determined by a blood test or breathalyzer test to determine whether the driver was intoxicated while driving. A court appearance is mandatory for people charged with a DUI. A "wet and reckless" charge is common in California and is simply a DUI charge that has been reduced to carry lesser penalties.

California DUI

California law states that a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher is enough to be charged with DUI. In addition, California has what are called "aggravating factors." Aggravating factors include speeding, having a child in the car, being in an accident, having a suspended license or having a blood alcohol content of 0.2 percent or higher. If a person is convicted of a DUI in conjunction with one or more aggravating factors, then the penalties are greatly increased.

California Wet and Reckless

A wet-and-reckless charge is basically a DUI charge that has been reduced to a lesser offense. The wet and reckless option was enacted in 1982. The purpose was to allow defendants to plead guilty to a lesser charge so that the state could get more convictions in close cases. The advantage to the defendant is that a wet-and-reckless charge has lower fines and lesser penalties than a DUI charge.

DUI Penalties

The penalties for a DUI in California differ depending on the number of DUI's a person has had. The penalties get stiffer for repeated offenses. For the first DUI conviction, the defendant can expect to be on probation for three to five years, pay a fine of $1,400 to $1,800, lose driving privileges for 6 months, attend 12 to 45 hours of alcohol-education classes and spend 48 hours in jail. Jail time may be reduced to work service in some cases. Those penalties are the minimum; a judge can impose stricter penalties.

Wet and Reckless Penalties

A wet and reckless charge is still considered a DUI in terms of criminal records. Insurance companies view a wet-and-reckless conviction as a DUI. If a person who receives a wet-and-reckless conviction gets another DUI within 10 years, the wet-and-reckless conviction is considered a prior DUI. The fine for a wet-and-reckless conviction ranges from $600 to $1,200. Probation is also part of the wet-and-reckless plea and can be from one to three years. In addition, there will typically be up to 12 hours of required alcohol education classes.

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