A "wet reckless" is the common name for the California Vehicle Code statute for "reckless driving involving alcohol". A driver is never arrested for a "wet reckless", so it comes up in the plea bargaining of a DUI case. Usually, prosecutors will agree to "reduce" a DUI charge in exchange to a guilty plea to the "wet reckless" charge. The reason for this varies from case to case and county to county. Generally, prosecutors will agree to this if it is a first offense DUI, low blood alcohol, or there is some other legal defense to the DUI charge. At one time, there were significant differences between the two charges, but the law has taken away some (if not most) of the benefits of a "wet reckless". However, in some cases it can be of some benefit, especially if the goal is to avoid the license suspension. An experienced DUI lawyer can discuss the details of your case and explain if a "wet" is helpful in a particular case.
A comparison of the major consequences between a DUI and a "wet reckless: 1) A conviction for either is 2 points on your driving record and is considered a "prior" if there is a second conviction within 10 years for DUI. 2) The fine for a DUI is around $2,200, half that for a "wet". 3) There is 48 hours of either jail time or alternative sentence for a DUI, while with a "wet", there is usually no extra time. However, oftentimes even a DUI can be "credit for time served". 4) A criminal conviction for a first time DUI will result in 6 months on a restricted license. A "wet" has no license issues from the criminal conviction. Important: to get this benefit, the driver must win the DMV administrative hearing. Otherwise, the DMV will suspend for 6 months even with a "wet" conviction. (A lot of DUI lawyers fail to explain this to their clients.) 5) With a DUI conviction, the driver must take at least a 3 month DUI class, a "wet" conviction has only a 12 hour DUI class. However, again for this benefit, the driver must prevail at the DMV administrative hearing. Otherwise, the driver must take the 3 month DUI class regardless of the "wet" conviction. As can be seen from the comparison, to take advantage of most of the benefits of a reduction to a reckless driving involving alcohol under 23103/ 23103.5, it is critical to prevail at the DMV administative hearing. For more information on DUI sentencing see http://www.phillipsduidefense.com/dui-penalities/
California Vehicle Code section 23103 states: (From CA DMV)
23103. (a) A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
Plea to a Lesser Charge: Vehicle Code section 23103.5
23103.5. (a) If the prosecution agrees to a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a charge of a violation of Section 23103 in satisfaction of, or as a substitute for, an original charge of a violation of Section 23152, the prosecution shall state for the record a factual basis for the satisfaction or substitution, including whether or not there had been consumption of an alcoholic beverage or ingestion or administration of a drug, or both, by the defendant in connection with the offense. The statement shall set forth the facts that show whether or not there was a consumption of an alcoholic beverage or the ingestion or administration of a drug by the defendant in connection with the offense.
(b) The court shall advise the defendant, prior to the acceptance of the plea offered pursuant to a factual statement pursuant to subdivision (a), of the consequences of a conviction of a violation of Section 23103 as set forth in subdivision (c).
(c) If the court accepts the defendant's plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a charge of a violation of Section 23103 and the prosecutor's statement under subdivision (a) states that there was consumption of an alcoholic beverage or the ingestion or administration of a drug by the defendant in connection with the offense, the resulting conviction shall be a prior offense for the purposes of Section 23540, 23546, 23550, 23560, 23566, or 23622, as specified in those sections.
(d) The court shall notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of each conviction of Section 23103 that is required under this section to be a prior offense for purposes of Section 23540, 23546, 23550, 23560, 23566, or 23622.