Attorney at Law

Wet Reckless

James Parker
March 23, 2022
Last reviewed by
September 14, 2023

What Is a Wet Reckless?

A wet reckless refers to the legal maneuver of pleading down a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) down to a reckless driving charge. This can be done by an attorney or it could be brought up by the prosecutor seeking a deal.

A wet reckless is not a lesser DUI charge. In fact, a wet reckless is not a DUI charge at all. With one exception, a wet reckless charge is treated as though it were a standard reckless driving charge. That exception is the state of California where a wet reckless is considered to be its own type of reckless driving charge. 

In any event, if a judge accepts the wet reckless charge, the defendant no longer faces the DUI. There may be a number of reasons for this maneuver. For example, if the prosecution does not have a blood alcohol content (BAC) test result from the defendant high enough to prove intoxication per se, they may offer the defendant a wet reckless charge to avoid the drawn-out process of providing definitive proof that the defendant is guilty of DUI.

Alternatively, a wet reckless can be offered to a defendant who does not have a prior criminal record. In this way, a wet reckless can be a way for the prosecution to go easy on what they may consider to be a simple lapse in judgment. Some states prohibit plea bargaining before trial. This results in fewer wet reckless charges due to the difficulty in successfully bargaining it down before trial begins.

Key Takeaways

  • A wet reckless is a slang term for the process of pleading a DUI charge down to a reckless driving charge.
  • Reckless driving charges can be less severe than DUI charges and may have fewer immediate or mandatory courses of action for the defendant.
  • In some states, reckless driving charges enhanced by alcohol may actually be worse than a low-level DUI charge.
  • If you are facing DUI charges and want to plead down to a wet reckless, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by leveraging experience and expert testimony.

Wet Reckless and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charges

When facing DUI charges, the defendant’s attorney may try to dismiss the DUI and plead it down to a wet reckless. Likewise, when offering a plea deal, a prosecutor may offer to drop the DUI offense down to a wet reckless.

The legal strategy displayed by the defendant is to influence events so that rather than be charged with a DUI, they will instead face a reckless driving charge that happens to involve alcohol. This strategy comes with risks and benefits. 

On the one hand, a wet reckless is a colloquial name. The charge that is actually being filed is a reckless driving charge. Reckless driving is a far less serious offense in most states than a DUI. While a DUI is at least a misdemeanor and can be raised to felony levels, in states like Kentucky a reckless driving charge is only a traffic violation. 

This means that the array of penalties being faced, even with the potential enhancement of alcohol, are inherently less severe. Depending on the state and the condition of the arrest, a wet reckless can have fewer long-lasting penalties than a DUI. At the very least, a wet reckless charge will not have the mandatory punitive aspects of a DUI charge such as the installation of an ignition interlock device or the automatic loss of driving privileges.

The downside of pleading down to a wet reckless is that it is very likely that the defendant will end up facing some kind of penalty. The nature of pleading down charges usually involves accepting a guilty or no contest verdict for a lesser offense. Even in cases where it can be shown that a DUI is unlikely due to the technical BAC results, a reckless driving charge can be an easier burden of proof to meet, particularly in states where the charge is considered to be a minor offense. 

When discussing a case with a DUI attorney it is important to weigh whether potentially pleading down to a wet reckless would be in the best interest of the defendant.

Bottom Line

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney. A DUI attorney can employ a number of legal strategies, including pleading down to a wet reckless, to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

DUI attorneys specialize in these charges and can advise you about the full range of options available to you. Additionally, they can utilize their specialized experience, trial tactics, and expert witnesses to dispute prosecution witnesses and evidence.

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