Driving while intoxicated is a common charge and a serious one. But prosecuting these cases does take up prosecution time and lab time for drug tests. Sometimes a prosecutor will offer someone charged with DUI a wet reckless plea deal instead. Is it worth it?

What is “wet reckless”?

This is not a formal charge, but a plea deal term for charging someone with reckless driving rather than DUI. For the defendant, reckless driving has a much lower penalty and fewer long-term consequences than a DUI conviction.

When is it offered?

State laws vary on whether or not a wet reckless plea deal can be made and the judge always has the final say. But when it is offered, it’s usually for first-time offenders. The legal scare may be enough to get someone to avoid drinking and driving in the future.

However, it’s also used when the prosecution’s case is weak. For instance, if someone blood alcohol level is exactly at 0.08, there is a good chance a skilled lawyer might get the defendant off the hook. Offering a wet reckless charge instead lets the prosecutor get a win.

What happens if I accept?

You will have to plead guilty to reckless driving. The penalties for this will vary between states and jurisdictions, but the penalties are much less than DUI. You’re not likely to face jail time nor have to attend much driving school. You might also avoid court-ordered license suspensions and professional license suspensions. The fines will be much smaller.

However, you will still have to deal with administrative suspensions for the arrest. If you’re in negotiations for a plea deal, your lawyer may be able to intervene, so you don’t get suspended by the DMV. You will also receive points on your record.

Also, your plea deal will be considered a prior charge of DUI should you ever get arrested for DUI again. It’s very rare for a wet reckless plea deal to be offered twice to the same person. 

Outside of court, your insurer may still treat your arrest as a DUI even if you plea it down to reckless driving, which means higher insurance rates. Also, future potential employers might discover the original charge, which could prevent you from entering some fields.

What happens if I refuse?

If you don’t accept the plea deal, or the judge rejects the agreement, then the trial will proceed with your original DUI charge. Depending on the facts of your case and the skill of your lawyer, you may be able to get the charges dropped altogether. This is why you should consult with a lawyer before accepting any plea deal. They will give you a fair assessment of your chances at trial.

People arrested for DUI should not expect a wet reckless plea deal, but if it is offered, you now know what it is and what the consequences are. Speak with a lawyer if you have further questions.