If you are placed under arrest and charged with driving under the influence in southern California, an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney can review the details of the case and recommend whether you should seek an acquittal at trial or accept a plea bargain. If you are entirely innocent of driving under the influence, you should fight the charge and seek an acquittal, but if the evidence against you is substantial, and if a “guilty” verdict is probable if your DUI case goes to trial, accepting a plea bargain may be your best choice.
A California DUI attorney can explain your rights and options, but in the end, the choice between fighting a DUI charge or taking the plea bargain and pleading guilty to a lesser charge is up to you. A plea bargain – a negotiated agreement between your DUI attorney and the prosecutor – settles the case, and defendants are told what their sentence will be before they plead guilty to a reduced charge. The two most typical plea bargains offered by prosecutors in California driving under the influence cases are “wet reckless” and “dry reckless.”
The precise penalties imposed for a DUI conviction in California will hinge on the details of the particular charge and the defendant’s prior convictions, if any, but DUI penalties almost inevitably include a substantial fine and a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license.
If you refuse to accept a plea bargain, and if you are convicted of driving under the influence in California, you will probably also be ordered to serve three to five years on probation and to attend DUI classes. A California judge can also order up to six months in jail for any DUI conviction in this state.
WHAT IS A “WET RECKLESS” CHARGE IN CALIFORNIA?
California law enforcement officers do not charge suspects with “wet reckless” because the wet reckless charge is filed in this state exclusively at a prosecutor’s discretion. The wet reckless charge exists to motivate DUI defendants to take a plea bargain so that driving under the influence cases move more swiftly through the courts. Judges and prosecutors usually accept a plea of no contest to the wet reckless charge.
A wet reckless conviction tells anyone looking at your criminal record that your offense was alcohol-related or drug-related, but a wet reckless conviction subjects you to less potential jail time than a DUI conviction, a less costly fine, and no suspension of your driver’s license. However, if you are charged with and convicted of driving under the influence within ten years of a wet reckless conviction, the wet reckless conviction will be counted as a prior DUI conviction.
A conviction for “dry reckless” will not count as a prior DUI offense, but it will put two points on your driver’s license. California DUI lawyers usually regard a plea bargain for dry reckless as a successful result on a client’s behalf, because the word “dry” does not indicate any involvement with alcohol or drugs, and the conviction is simply the equivalent of a misdemeanor reckless driving conviction.
ARE THERE OTHER PLEA BARGAIN OPTIONS IN DUI CASES?
If you are charged with driving under the influence as a misdemeanor in the state of California, and especially if no one was injured and it is your first offense, you will probably be offered a plea bargain, and you will probably be asked to plead guilty to a wet reckless charge or a dry reckless charge. In some DUI cases, however, a different lesser charge may be offered by a California prosecutor.
For example, if you were found by the police passed out drunk in your car, but your car was parked and you were not driving it when you were spotted by the officers, you may be asked to plead guilty to “drunk in public,” which is a misdemeanor but not a driving offense.
If you were actually drinking alcohol while you were driving, but there’s little or no evidence that you were intoxicated, you might be offered a plea bargain for consuming alcohol in a vehicle on a public street, an infraction penalized upon conviction with a fine.
If you are charged with driving under the influence in southern California, you should discuss all of your options with an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney to decide the best legal strategy in your particular case. A “motion to suppress” is sometimes a defense attorney’s first move on a DUI client’s behalf. Evidence can be “suppressed” or in effect tossed out of court if the police violated a suspect’s rights to obtain the evidence.
SHOULD A DUI DEFENDANT CHOOSE A PLEA BARGAIN OR A TRIAL?
If there is no persuasive evidence against a DUI suspect, the charge will almost always be dismissed, but if evidence of a suspect’s guilt was obtained with no violation of the suspect’s rights, accepting a plea bargain may be the best next step. If a defendant accepts a plea bargain, the sentence can be known in advance with certainty, but if a driving under the influence case goes to trial, there’s a risk, no certainties, and no guarantees.
However, in some cases, rather than offering a plea bargain that reduces a DUI charge to wet reckless or dry reckless, a prosecutor may instead offer a plea bargain that merely reduces the sentence for driving under the influence rather than the charge itself. The best general suggestion for anyone facing a DUI charge in California is to work with a DUI lawyer you can trust, and then follow that lawyer’s advice and recommendations.
Of course, the best overall suggestion regarding drinking and driving is – don’t! If you intend to drive, don’t drink. If you intend to drink, arrange for a taxi, a rideshare service, or a designated driver. There is no shortage of ride-for-hire services in Southern California, and most of them offer their services 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Don’t let your friends drive if they are impaired, either. Take their keys, call a taxi, or offer your friend the spare bedroom or the sofa.
Any California DUI conviction goes on your record and impacts your future, but never in a good way. It’s imperative to consult right away with an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney if you face a DUI charge in southern California. A good DUI lawyer has a variety of legal strategies and tools available for defending your rights. You’ll need an attorney who can have the charge against you dismissed, arrange for an acceptable plea bargain, or win a not guilty verdict on your behalf.