Legal penalties are seldom the only penalties a driver faces in California when he or she is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). A DUI conviction can damage your career or make it tough to find employment. Even a DUI arrest that doesn’t lead to a conviction can damage your employment situation, especially if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or if driving is essential to your work.

State and federal laws determine who may conduct a background check, how a background check may proceed, and how those who are hiring may use whatever information they obtain. Employers check backgrounds for all kinds of reasons, and some of those reasons may not be legal. However, California and eight other states provide certificates of rehabilitation for employment purposes to those convicted of driving under the influence, and California law makes it illegal for California employers to inquire about arrests that didn’t lead to convictions.

Most states, including California, require a background investigation for a driving job (such as a bus, truck, or taxi driver) and for any job where the applicant will work closely with children, disabled persons, or the elderly. A conviction for DUI does not mean that a job applicant will necessarily be rejected for certain kinds of jobs. In other lines of work in California, convictions for crimes like DUI, simple assault, and drug crimes are not considered “automatic” disqualifiers.

WHAT IS WET RECKLESS?

In many misdemeanor, first-offense DUI prosecutions, defendants are offered plea bargains. Typically, the offer in these cases is a reduced charge – “wet reckless” instead of driving under the influence – in return for a guilty plea or a plea of no contest to the lower charge. When you seek employment in California, you’ll face a somewhat different situation if you were charged with DUI but accepted a plea bargain with a conviction for wet reckless.

California law permits DUI defendants to enter a plea of nolo contendere (“no contest”) to a reckless driving charge, and the “wet” notation indicates alcohol was “involved.” This arrangement is usually offered only to first-offense DUI suspects when the suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level was right at or just above the 0.08 percent legal limit and when no one was injured and no property was damaged.

Pleading nolo contendere to wet reckless is often a DUI defendant’s best option. Jail is almost never required with a wet reckless conviction, and the fine is lower than a fine for driving under the influence. A DUI conviction is a genuine employment obstacle for some positions, but pleading guilty to a wet reckless charge, generally speaking, means that offenders can avoid DUI-related job and career trouble.

WHAT ARE YOUR LEGAL EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS?

In July of this year, new rules regarding background checks went into effect in California. The law already prevented employers in this state from asking about arrests that didn’t lead to convictions and from inquiring about expunged or sealed criminal records. Since July 1st, California employers with five or more employees in California cannot ask about previous criminal convictions if the questions have an “adverse impact” on persons protected by anti-discrimination laws because they belong to a legally protected class.

Those same employers must also be able to prove that questions they ask about criminal convictions are employment-related questions that are relevant to the position and the business. A wet reckless plea can help DUI offenders avoid jail and keep a job or find a job, but a wet reckless plea bargain and conviction doesn’t solve all of the problems associated with driving under the influence.

For instance, a wet reckless plea bargain and conviction may not prevent the California DMV from temporarily suspending the offender’s driver’s license, and an offender’s auto insurance costs will climb after any reckless driving conviction. After a DUI arrest in California, a defendant has only ten days to challenge the automatic license suspension. An experienced Orange County DUI lawyer may be able to help you retain your driving privilege, but no one can help with your auto insurance rates.

The wet reckless charge in the state of California was created for the exclusive purpose of encouraging those who are charged with driving under the influence to accept a plea agreement so that DUI cases can move quickly through the crowded California criminal justice system. When someone looks at your record, a conviction for wet reckless indicates only that your conviction was alcohol or drug-related.

In Southern California, if you are arrested, charged with DUI, and prosecuted, consider your legal options carefully. If you are offered a plea bargain, a decision to accept or reject it should be made only on the advice of an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer. The choices you make when you are a DUI defendant will substantially impact your job, family, and finances both now and in the foreseeable future.

HOW CAN A DUI ATTORNEY HELP?

In some cases, if you serve probation successfully for a California DUI conviction, an Orange County DUI attorney can file a motion to set your verdict aside or withdraw your plea, so the record will show the charge was dismissed. And since 2014, California prohibits those who are hiring from asking job-seekers to disclose DUI or wet reckless convictions that have been expunged.

If you cannot get hired – or get the job you want – because of an old DUI or wet reckless charge or conviction, consult a California DUI attorney about having the conviction expunged. Expungement lets you tell employers that you do not have a DUI or wet reckless conviction on your record, and since 2014, California employers may not use expunged convictions against a job applicant.

Felony DUI convictions cannot be expunged until and unless they can first be reduced to misdemeanors. Every situation will be slightly different, so those seeking to have DUI or wet reckless convictions expunged will need a DUI attorney’s help.

Finally, no discussion of driving under the influence is complete without a reiteration of the best possible advice regarding DUI – Don’t Drink and Drive. Plan ahead. Call a taxi, use a rideshare service, or appoint a designated driver. Sleep on a friend’s sofa if you have to. Nothing is more important than your health or your life, and nothing is easier to avoid than trouble with the law over drinking and driving. There’s simply no reason to let that kind of trouble happen to you, but if it does, get a DUI lawyer’s help immediately.