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What is a Wet Reckless Charge?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A wet reckless charge is a charge that may be leveled against someone who exhibits recklessness while driving under the influence (DUI). Essentially, it is a charge of reckless driving compounded by the consumption of alcohol. Not all regions have wet reckless laws, but many do, largely to encourage people to plead guilty rather than forcing a case to go to trial and eating up large amounts of resources.

Essentially, a wet reckless charge is a step down from a DUI charge. The next step would be a "dry" reckless, which is a bit of a misnomer, since people who plead guilty to a dry reckless charge may still be asked to complete alcohol treatment programs. The "wet" charge is typically offered as a plea bargain choice; if someone agrees to plead guilty to it, the greater DUI charge will be dropped, and a penalty will quickly be determined without bringing the case to trial.

When someone pleads guilty to or is convicted on a wet reckless charge, he or she will have to pay a fine and go on probation. The charge usually goes on the record for 10 years, and the defendant may be asked to complete an alcohol treatment program; his or her license may also be suspended. In contrast, DUI charges always result in jail time, often making a plea deal appealing to a defendant who suspects that he or she will probably be convicted.

Pleading down to wet reckless does not allow the defendant to get away without major penalties, however. Insurance premiums generally go up when this charge is recorded on someone's record, as this is treated as a DUI by the insurance company. In addition, it counts as a prior, so if someone is charged with drunk driving again within 10 years, he or she can face stiffer penalties.

Someone who faces a drunk driving charge may choose to ask if he or she can plea down to a wet reckless charge, preferring its slightly reduced penalties. Consulting one's lawyer is generally a good idea when considering this, as these charges are not an option in all areas, or a lawyer may have additional insight and advice specific to the defendant's case. Of course, one could always avoid the decision of whether or not to make a plea bargain by not driving drunk.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By lovealot — On May 12, 2011

@Clairdelune - In California and probably in many oher states, wet reckless driving and dry reckless driving are both misdemeanors and are offered as plea bargains for DUIs. A dry reckless charge is offered if the driver's blood alcohol is under or right around the legal limit of .08. Wet reckless driving is considered dangerous driving when the driver's alcohol content is above legal limits. Penalties for dry reckless pleas are the least serious of the three charges.

By Clairdelune — On May 11, 2011

I'm a little confused about the difference between the wet reckless misdemeanor and the dry reckless charge. Can anyone help with clarification of this point?

By nextcorrea — On May 10, 2011

@redhill - I agree that the court system can seem kind of sneaky sometimes but I think the wet reckless charge make sense. DUI laws are necessarily complicated because there are lots of different possible offenses and penalties. It sounds like the wet reckless charge gives defendants more choices while still protecting the interests of the public. The best I can say is that I'm glad I don't have one!

By live2shop — On May 10, 2011

@redhill - From reading the above article, I agree that the wet reckless charge was probably instituted to relieve the over crowded court system of endless cases. DUI charges always end in a jail sentence. Our jails are crowded with very serious offenders. By giving the offender the option of pleading guilty in a wet reckless charge, there are fewer court cases. The DUI charge is dropped, but there are still penalties given to the offender, which hopefully will be a deterrent to poor driving behavior in the future.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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