Driving under the influence charge is complex to manage and navigate independently. Nevertheless, depending on your case circumstances, things are not as hopeless as they appear. Pleading guilty to dry reckless can be an option since it carries less severe penalties than a DUI conviction. However, the prosecutor will not offer you the plea offer. It is the responsibility of your defense lawyer to present evidence showing that you deserve the dry reckless charge. The proficient lawyers at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm understand what is at stake and can work aggressively to ensure you obtain the most favorable case outcome.
Reasons Dry Reckless is Better than a Driving Under the Influence Conviction
Dry reckless describes an instance where a defendant charged with driving under the influence (DUI) pleads guilty to VC 23103 reckless driving without indicating that alcohol was involved.
Reckless driving is operating a car with a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of property or other road users.
Dry reckless charge reduction or plea bargain has considerable advantages over DUI, including:
There is No Compulsory Sentencing Enhancement After a Subsequent Dry Reckless Offense
Penalties carried by a DUI charge increase with every subsequent conviction within ten years (look-back period). On the contrary, dry reckless penalties do not automatically enhance with subsequent conviction.
You Will Serve a Shorter Incarceration Term
Pleading guilty to dry reckless under VC 23103 will subject you to up to ninety days in jail. On the contrary, a first-time DUI conviction is punished by six months in jail, whereas a subsequent conviction carries a one-year jail sentence.
You Will Serve a Shorter Probation
While probation for dry reckless conviction lasts a year or two, a defendant placed on DUI probation can spend five years.
The difference becomes essential should you get charged with another offense. If the probation duration has elapsed, you cannot be charged with a probation violation.
There is No Compulsory Court-Ordered Driver’s License Suspension
A DUI conviction can trigger a license suspension for six months, and the duration can be longer when the accused has a previous wet reckless or DUI conviction.
However, a dry reckless does not initiate a driver’s license suspension. Instead, it adds two (2) points to the driving record, which can result in a negligent operator license suspension.
Nevertheless, you should note that the California Department of Motor Vehicles ultimately decides whether you will lose your license at an administrative hearing. Therefore, to avoid the withdrawal of your driving privileges, you should have the court reduce your charge to dry reckless in court and win your DMV hearing.
You Will Not Attend a DUI School
One of the penalties of a DUI conviction is attending a DUI school that can last between three to eighteen months. The dry reckless conviction does not have this requirement.
Nonetheless, as a requirement of the plea offer, the court can require you to engage in a program that lasts six weeks.
You Will Pay Reduced Fines
Theoretically, the maximum fines for a DUI conviction and dry reckless are $1,000. However, with court-imposed penalty assessment, most defendants pay up to three thousand dollars in fines. Typically, dry reckless fines are about half of what you would pay if found guilty of drunk driving.
How is Wet Reckless Different From Dry Reckless? Which is Better?
Wet reckless is another plea bargain offer for drunk driving charges. With the wet reckless, the defendant pleads guilty to Vehicle Code Section 23103.5, the same way they would with dry reckless. Nevertheless, the conviction record will indicate that drugs or alcohol were involved in the arrest.
Notable advantages of a dry reckless over a California wet reckless include the following:
Dry Reckless Is Not Priorable
Both California wet reckless and DUI are priorable crimes. In other words, if the accused has a previous wet reckless or drunk driving conviction and then faces a subsequent drunk driving charge within the look-back period, the court will exponentially increase their penalties.
A dry reckless is not priorable. If the defendant has a dry reckless conviction on their criminal record and later faces a DUI conviction, they will be considered a first-time drunk driving defendant.
Insurance Providers Prefer a Reckless Driving Conviction
Your dry reckless conviction will not necessarily result in increased auto premiums or cancellation of the car insurance policy.
Additionally, dry reckless does not lead to the same analysis as a wet reckless or DUI conviction would as far as commercial or professional licenses are concerned. A conviction is a misdemeanor crime and is not automatically linked to DUI.
When Does a Prosecutor Reduce a Drunk Driving Charge to a Dry Reckless?
Since dry reckless is not a priorable crime, prosecutors are hesitant to offer it as a charge reduction. Generally, they prefer wet reckless charges.
The prosecution team will agree to dry reckless when:
- Your blood alcohol concentration is less than 0.08%
- The proof against you is weak
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Fight for Dry Reckless Charges
A Riverside criminal defense lawyer cannot simply ask for a DUI charge reduction. They should establish the reason for reduced charges. Some of the legal defenses include:
Absence of Probable Cause for Your Driving Under the Influence Stop
Before the law enforcers can stop you, arrest you, or detain you to conduct an investigation, they should have reasonable belief or suspicion that you committed a crime. The reasonable belief is called probable cause.
If the police officer did not have probable cause before the investigation, the court should suppress any proof obtained. When a court suppresses proof, the prosecutor cannot use it against you. The absence of probable cause is an effective defense that leads to reduced DUI charges.
The Police Failed to Read Your Miranda Rights
Miranda rights are only required in DUI after your arrest when the police conduct a custodial interrogation. A custodial interrogation happens when a police officer asks you questions tailored to give incriminating answers after your arrest.
If the conditions are met, the police should advise you of your Miranda rights or risk having subsequent statements excluded from proof upon a motion by a defense lawyer. The exclusion could lead to charge reduction depending on the statements' significance.
Inherent Error Rate for a DUI Chemical Testing
Even when all testing conditions are perfect, drunk driving chemical testing has an inherent error rate. Experts agree that chemical testing has a -/+ error rate between 0.005% and 0.02%.
Consequently, your legal defense strategy can challenge BAC results between .08% and .10%.
There Were Errors in the Breath Test
If the police subjected you to a breath test after the arrest, you could expect the prosecution team to present the evidence to the court. However, your defense attorney can challenge the results by claiming that your blood alcohol concentration was on the rise.
It is not a crime to drink alcohol before driving your vehicle. What is unlawful is being impaired when you operate your car. After drinking alcohol, the BAC rises steadily and rapidly until it reaches the maximum level. Generally, BAC on the rise takes approximately fifty minutes to reach the peak.
If you had rising BAC when the police pulled you over, your chemical test results could be inaccurate. The alcohol level could have risen above 0.08% during the investigation period. Please note that what matter is what the level was at when you drove. That means you have a valid legal defense to the charges.
Breath Test Error
Generally, DUI breath tests are subject to numerous errors, including:
- Improper police handling
- Gadget malfunction
- Physiological conditions like your diet or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Environmental factors like radio frequency interference
Although the breath test is the most common method of measuring BAC, it is not always the most accurate. It is because the test does not directly measure the level of alcohol in the blood. Instead, it measures the amount of alcohol in the breath and then converts the amount to determine the BAC.
Consequently, DUI breath testing generates an erroneously high blood alcohol concentration reading. Understanding how this occurs can form a basis of defense strategy.
Violation of Title 17 of the Code of Regulations
Title 17 sets forth requirements for collecting, storing, and analyzing chemical tests. These requirements include:
- An authorized expert should perform the blood draw
- The expert should not use the alcohol-based cleaning agent to sterilize the draw site
- There should be a sufficient amount of anticoagulant and preservative in the blood vial
- The administrating professional should mix the anticoagulant and preservative well with the blood sample
- The anticoagulant and preservative should not be expired
- The blood sample should be stored properly
- The police should observe the defendant providing the breath sample for more than fifteen minutes before taking the chemical test and ensure the individual does not smoke, vomit, regurgitate, drink, or eat.
- The breathalyzer should be calibrated after 150 uses or every ten days (whichever happens first)
- The breath sample should originate from deep lung air
If chemical test results are part of the proof against you, your skilled defense lawyer can investigate the possibility of Title 17 violations. It can assist in discrediting the results, causing the prosecutor to agree to a California dry reckless.
A Roadmap of How the Dry Reckless Court Process and DMV Work
The court process refers to a drunk driving-related crime's legal and procedural steps. You should seek legal representation since the process can be overwhelming.
Step 1: Investigation
The investigation is the initial step in the process that starts after the police pull over a driver. If the law enforcers suspect that you are intoxicated, they can report that:
- You emitted an alcoholic odor from your breath, or
- You exhibited objective signs of intoxication like slurred speech, flushed face, and watery eyes
The cop can then request you to perform field sobriety tests. Depending on their observation, the officer can arrest you for DUI.
Step 2: Arrest
After your arrest, the police will measure your blood alcohol concentration. If the BAC is above 0.08%, you will be prosecuted with VC 23152(b).
If you refuse to submit to the chemical test, the police will still arrest you. The refusal attracts additional penalties.
After booking you, the arresting officer will complete their report and submit it to the prosecutor. Then the prosecutor will review it and file the charges against you or decline to file them.
Step 3: Arraignment
Arraignment is the initial court hearing where you will enter your plea on your criminal charge.
Step 4: Plea Bargain and Pretrial Motions
The pre-trial phase is the longest. During this time, your criminal defense lawyer will investigate the case facts. If they uncover significant proof in your favor, the judge can dismiss or reduce your charge. It is accomplished through plea bargaining and bringing motions.
Some of the motions your lawyer can file include:
- A motion to suppress evidence where you request the court to exclude illegally obtained evidence or that will unreasonably prejudice you
- Probable cause motion
- Pitchess motion
The plea bargain happens when your lawyer negotiates with the prosecution to reach a deal or resolve the case before proceeding to trial. For instance, your defense attorney can persuade the prosecutor to charge you with a dry reckless instead of DUI.
The DMV Hearing Process
Immediately after your arrest, the law enforcer will cease your driver’s license and notify you that it will be suspended in thirty days. They will issue you a valid pink form until your suspension becomes effective.
The officer will send the DMV your license. The DMV will automatically suspend your license after thirty days unless you request a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing. You should request the hearing within ten days from your arrest date.
You and your lawyer should challenge your driver’s license suspension during the administrative hearing. The California DMV will not suspend your license if you prevail in the hearing. On the other hand, if you lose your hearing, the DMV will withdraw your driving privileges.
When Should You Take a Plea Bargain for Your Criminal Case?
Being charged with a crime is a stressful, confusing, and terrifying experience. Things move and become complex fast, making it challenging to know the next step to take. Consequently, it is tempting to take the prosecution's initial plea offer. Should you?
Sometimes, it is wise to accept the plea bargain. However, as with all negotiations, you should ensure that you are receiving the most favorable deal before accepting. Here are questions to ask yourself before taking the plea bargain:
Have You Consulted With Your Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Speaking with your legal defense lawyer should be the first step before taking the plea bargain. The attorney is well-versed with the California judicial process and can help you determine whether that offer is worth taking. Your lawyer has previously seen or handled similar cases and understands prosecution trends and possible sentences and consequences. Additionally, your lawyer can review the proof against you and determine whether there exist methods to dispute your charges. If the prosecutor realizes that their case against you is weak, they will offer a better plea to avoid losing.
Is The Offer in Your Best Interest?
Given the stress that comes with criminal charges, it is possible to take any deal to bring the suffering to an end. However, you should understand that while the prosecutor offering you the plea offer can seem a nice gesture, they are not interested in representing your best interests. They can try to persuade you it is in your best interest to take the bargain on their conditions or risk facing a more severe crime and harsher penalties. They can also offer it to reduce the workload by getting you through the criminal justice system faster.
Whatever their reason, recall: the prosecutor is not your lawyer and is not obligated to assist you in making decisions in your best interests. A prosecutor is a government employee representing the government and operates from the school of thought that you are not innocent. It is their responsibility to obtain many convictions.
Ensure you review whether the prosecutor’s offer is in your best interest. Remember, a conviction comes with numerous consequences and penalties beyond serving time and paying fines.
Moreover, accepting the plea bargain forfeits the entitlement to appeal issues in the case. While the offer can be in your best interests if you plead no contest or guilty to dry reckless, you waive your entitlement to a trial, and should you receive an unfair sentence, you cannot appeal your sentence. Generally, a judge accepts the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation. Consequently, the judge determines the penalties you will face and can decide to ignore the prosecution’s recommendations.
If the defendant took the plea, they would not have the chance to allow the jury to listen to their evidence and would not appeal the judge’s verdict.
Expunging Your Dry Reckless Conviction
You can expunge a criminal history following your dry reckless conviction. However, the conviction will stay on your California Department of Motor Vehicles record for thirteen years.
You qualify for expungement provided you completed probation and are not currently:
- On probation for an offense
- Serving time
- Charge with a crime
Please note that individuals can still qualify for expungement even when they violated their probation terms. The court will schedule a special hearing to determine whether they are eligible.
The California expungement process begins with bringing a petition to the court under PC 1203. You can file the petition in person, by a probation officer authorized in writing, or via a lawyer. Then the court can either allow you to withdraw your guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty. Finally, the court will dismiss your accusations, releasing you from different consequences resulting from dry reckless.
Typical benefits of expungement include:
- Freedom from judgment and worry
- Ease of securing employment
- Ease of obtaining state professional licenses
- It prevents your previous convictions from being used to indict your credibility in specific proceedings
- It helps you become a member of a professional organization
Are There Other DUI Charge Reduction Alternatives?
Other drunk driving charge reduction options include the following:
- Exhibition of speed — It is a less common driving under the influence charge reduction. The misdemeanor carries little or no incarceration time, reduced fines, and shorter probation. The prosecutor will agree to reduce your DUI charge to the exhibition of speed if their charges are weak. Nevertheless, a conviction will earn you points on the driving record.
- Additionally, the prosecutor can agree to reduce the charge to a drunk in public, especially if they cannot prove whether the defendant was operating their car. Drunk in public is charged as a misdemeanor carrying less severe penalties. Additionally, it will not attract points to the driving record since it is unrelated to driving.
- Moreover, the prosecutor can reduce the DUI charge to drinking alcohol in a car. It is a crime to drink any alcoholic beverage in a car on a public street in California. It is an infraction punishable by fines.
- Finally, the prosecutor can offer a traffic infraction as a plea bargain, especially when they believe the criminal charge will not win at the trial. The prosecutor can agree to the plea bargain, mainly when many Title 17 violations exist, or the prosecution team cannot prove the chemical test result.
Find a Skilled DUI Defense Lawyer Near Me
Prosecutors and judges do not take DUI charges lightly, and you risk facing severe penalties like lengthy incarceration, hefty fines and assessments, probation, stigma, and DUI school. One practical method to avoid these penalties is negotiating a dry reckless plea with the prosecution team. Under VC 23103, dry reckless is a criminal offense that does not involve alcohol and carries less impact on your life than a drunk driving conviction. However, you will require a skilled lawyer’s assistance to secure it. For many decades Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm has fought for the rights of thousands of defendants and is ready to help you. Please contact us today at 951-946-6366 to discuss the best legal strategies for your case.