A driving under the influence (DUI) offense conviction could attract long-lasting detrimental consequences for your life because it will remain on your criminal record. Because these offenses often lead to several fatal road accidents, the prosecutor and the judge will not be lenient with you if you are arrested or charged with a DUI offense.

On top of the possible hefty and unaffordable fines, a DUI charge conviction could carry a lengthy jail term and even make you lose your driving privileges for several years. If you are behind bars as a suspect in a DUI case, your attorney can help you obtain a lighter offense, like dry reckless during a plea bargain.

Even though dry reckless is a favorable plea bargain deal when charged with a DUI offense, do not enter the plea bargain negotiations without the help of an attorney. At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we can intervene and help you determine whether pleading to dry reckless offense is a wise idea, depending on the facts of your DUI case.

An Overview of Dry Reckless Offense Under Vehicle Code (VC) 23103

Generally speaking, dry reckless is another term for the reckless driving offense under VC 23103. According to this statute, operating a vehicle with wanton disregard for people's safety and their properties is illegal. For the sake of this statute, you show disregard for other motorists’ and pedestrians' safety if:

  • You know that your actions or conduct are dangerous to the safety and health of other people and their properties
  • You intentionally and willingly ignore the danger your conduct or behavior on the road poses

Since the standard penalties for a DUI offense conviction are harsh, most attorneys will work with the prosecutor presiding over your case to obtain a favorable plea bargain, like dry reckless. A plea bargain option in a DUI case helps you avoid time wastage and the high cost of going through the trial process to challenge a DUI offense.

If the prosecutor accepts to reduce your DUI charge to dry reckless, you should be happy because the penalties you will face upon conviction will be lighter. However, your defense attorney will likely negotiate with the prosecutor during the pretrial phase of the legal justice system to reduce your charge to dry reckless if:

  • Going to trial carries more uncertainty than the plea deal
  • The available evidence the prosecutor has against you is strong
  • Your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level is below the legal threshold of 0.08%
  • The prosecutor's plea bargain deal is favorable

If you are a first-time DUI offender and the offense did not cause an injury or property damage, the prosecutor could agree to reduce your DUI charge to dry reckless.

The evidence and arguments that your defense attorney presents during the plea bargain negotiation will determine whether the prosecutor will offer you the requested plea bargain deal. If not, you should begin preparing to defend your DUI charge at trial.

Common Arguments Your Attorney Could Use to Obtain a Dry Reckless Plea Bargain

During your plea bargain negotiations, your attorney's defense arguments will determine whether the prosecution team will reduce your DUI charge to a lighter offense like a dry reckless with less serious consequences upon conviction.

Below are some of the defenses applicable in a dry reckless case:

  1. You Have a Medical Condition That Led to a High BAC Level

Some medical conditions, like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), could trigger positive results on the breathalyzer test even if you were not drunk driving. If your defense attorney can provide medical records to prove you have this disease, the prosecution team could agree to reduce your DUI offense to a VC 23103 charge.

  1. The Breathalyzer Test Results Were Inaccurate

After stopping at a DUI checkpoint for a quick DUI investigation, the police will use a breathalyzer to determine your BAC level. A breathalyzer is an equipment that calculates your BAC level using your breath vapor. While it is a helpful gadget during a DUI investigation, it can record inaccurate results, particularly if it is faulty or unsterilized.

  1. Your Chemical Blood Test Results Were Inaccurate

After an arrest, the police could require a blood or urine test to determine your BAC level. However, like the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, blood tests are prone to errors. If the equipment the arresting police will use to draw or store your blood samples is unsterilized, your defense attorney can challenge the reliability of the recorded results.

If this defense works in your favor, the prosecutor will likely reduce your DUI charge to a VC 23103 charge.

  1. You Had Rising BAC

The blood test results are the most reliable and substantial evidence in a DUI case. Since your BAC does not stop rising once you stop drinking alcohol, your attorney can argue that your BAC level was within the legal limit before your arrest and continued to increase during the investigation process.

  1. Reckless Driving is Not the Same as DUI

The arresting officers could base their DUI arrest on your driving behavior. Improper lane change, swerving, and erratic driving are some factors the officers consider before selecting a vehicle for a quick DUI investigation at the DUI checkpoint. However, this conduct on the road does not necessarily mean the motorist is under the influence.

If your attorney can prove to the prosecution team that your reckless driving behavior on the road is not due to alcohol intoxication, he/she could reduce your DUI charge to dry reckless.

Other acceptable defenses your attorney could assert during plea bargain negotiations after a DUI arrest include the following:

  • The police did not read Miranda rights to you
  • The police did not have probable cause for your arrest

Legal Penalties for a Dry Reckless Charge Conviction

When used as a plea bargain option for the alleged DUI offense, your penalties upon a dry reckless charge conviction under VC 23103 could include:

  • A fine amounting to up to $1,000
  • A jail sentence of not more than five (5) years
  • Five-year misdemeanor probation
  • Two "negligent operator" points on your DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) record

With the help of your defense attorney, there is a high chance the court will award you probation and require you to pay a fine instead of serving jail time upon a VC 23103 charge conviction. When awarded probation instead of jail time, you should be ready to comply with the court-set terms and conditions, including:

  • Pay court-ordered fines
  • Stay-crime free
  • Stay alcohol-free
  • Install an IID (ignition interlock device) on your car

Generally, the penalties for a VC 23103 violation conviction are less severe than a first-DUI charge conviction. That is why most attorneys will strive to obtain a dry reckless plea deal when you are arrested or charged as a suspect in a DUI case.

Reasons That Make a VC 23103 Violation Better Than a DUI Charge

While they are both crimes in the eyes of the law, VC 23103 charges have less serious consequences and will not disrupt your life as a DUI charge conviction would. Here are some of the reasons your attorney could recommend or advise you to agree to a dry reckless plea upon a DUI arrest:

Reduced Jail Sentence

Unlike a DUI charge that carries a six-month jail sentence upon conviction, a VC 23103 charge conviction will only require you to serve a 90-day jail sentence. You should comply with the required terms and requirements if the judge decides to sentence you to probation upon a VC 23103 charge conviction.

When you are guilty of a probation revocation offense, your sentence will include up to ninety days of jail time, which is shorter than the six (6) months you would face in a DUI conviction.

Reduced Fines

The penalties for a VC 23103 charge and DUI conviction include fines, jail time, or both. The maximum fine the judge could require you to pay for these crimes is $1,000. However, if your DUI offense has other aggravating factors, a conviction could attract penalty assessments of up to $15,000.

These penalty assessments could result in a fine of up to $3,000 upon a DUI conviction, which is more expensive than the fine you would pay for a dry reckless charge conviction.

No Mandatory Sentence Enhancement for a Repeat Offender

DUI and wet reckless convictions are "priorable" offenses, meaning subsequent convictions for the same offense will attract harsher penalties. For instance, if the court orders you to pay a fine of $390 for a first-time DUI conviction, your subsequent conviction will attract a fine of up to $500.

However, when the prosecutor agrees to reduce your DUI charge to a dry reckless offense, your sentence will not be priorable. That means the judge will not refer to your past convictions when determining your appropriate sentence for present dry reckless or DUI charges.

You Do Not Have to Install IID in Your Vehicle

In addition to jail time and hefty fines, a DUI conviction could require you to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your vehicle. An IID is a gadget that the judge will require you to install in your vehicle to prevent the engine from igniting once it detects alcohol traces in your breath vapor.

If your breath has no alcohol traces, the vehicle engine will ignite, and after certain intervals, you will need to blow into it again to keep driving.

Shorter Probation Duration

Sometimes, after a DUI or dry reckless charge conviction, the court can sentence you to probation instead of jail time. While the probation duration for the DUI charge conviction could last up to five (5) years, if you are guilty of a VC 23103 violation, the judge will sentence you to probation for not more than two (2) years.

Once you serve your probation period, you can petition the court for an expungement immediately to avoid the detrimental consequences of having a conviction on your record.

You Will Not Lose Your Driver's License (DL)

The fines and jail time you will face upon a DUI charge conviction are grave, but the most life-altering repercussion of this conviction is the loss of a DL. If the DMV will not suspend your DL after an arrest, you could lose it after a DUI conviction at trial. You could lose your DL for up to six (6) months for a first-time DUI offense.

However, this suspension duration could be longer for a defendant with a drunk driving or wet reckless charge conviction on his/her record.

You Do Not Have to Attend a DUI School

After a first-time DUI charge conviction, the court will order you to attend a 3-month, 30-hour DU school, which is costly. If you are a repeat offender, you could spend up to eighteen (18) months in a court-approved DUI school.

How to Challenge a Dry Reckless Charge

While the penalties of a dry reckless charge conviction are less severe than those of a DUI charge conviction, you should be ready to challenge them at trial for the best possible outcome. You will rely on your defense attorney to convince the judge to drop the charge or give you the minimum penalties.

Some of the defenses your attorney can use to challenge a dry reckless charge under VC 23103 include the following:

You Were Not the Driver

You are only guilty of a VC 23103 violation offense if the prosecutor can prove that you did drive recklessly with disregard for other people's safety, life, and property. Therefore, if you were not the driver of the involved vehicle, you cannot be guilty under VC 23103.

You Did Not Drive Recklessly

As mentioned above, the prosecutor must prove that you were indeed operating a vehicle recklessly to obtain a conviction against you for a VC 23103 charge. If the prosecutor's evidence cannot prove this crucial element of the crime, the court will not convict you for a VC 23103 charge.


It is also a valid defense to argue that you had a reason to drive recklessly in that situation. For example, if you had a medical emergency that required you to rush a patient to the hospital as soon as possible, this defense argument could work in your favor for the best attainable outcome.

The Difference Between Dry Reckless Offense and Wet Reckless Offense

The primary purpose of the plea bargain option in DUI cases is to convince the prosecution team to reduce your DUI charges to reckless driving charges, which carry less severe penalties upon conviction at trial. Your attorney can bargain and negotiate with the prosecution team to reduce your DUI charges to either a dry reckless or a wet reckless charge.

While these two types of charge reductions could work in your favor if you have DUI charges, they differ in several ways in the eyes of the law. Below are some of the facts that make a wet reckless offense different from a dry reckless offense:

  • A wet reckless offense is a "priorable" offense, meaning any subsequent conviction within ten (10) years since your first crime will attract harsher penalties
  • Alcohol is involved in wet reckless charges, meaning this offense will invite more scrutiny by your insurer and the DMV, as a DUI offense would
  • A wet reckless conviction could require you to attend a DUI school

If you are arrested or charged with a DUI offense, your attorney will know the most desirable charge reduction to avoid the severe and life-changing penalties of a DUI conviction.

Other DUI Plea Bargain Options Your Defense Attorney Can Consider

Aside from wet reckless and dry reckless, your attorney could negotiate with the prosecution team to obtain any of the following types of charge reductions:

Drunk in Public (DIP)

The prosecutor could agree to reduce your DUI charges to DIP if he/she has no evidence to prove that you were driving but you had a high BAC level at the time of your arrest. For instance, the prosecutor will likely file DIP charges against you if you had passed out in your vehicle before your arrest.

Since it is a misdemeanor, you should expect the following penalties upon conviction:

  • Up to six months of jail time
  • A fine of not more than $1,000

Exhibition of Speed

Exhibition of speed is another common DUI plea bargain option your defense attorney could consider if you have DUI charges. VC 23109 (c) makes it illegal to engage in any motor vehicle speeding competition on the highway, which is a criminal offense. The penalties you could face upon a VC 23109 (c) violation conviction include:

  • Ninety (90) days of jail time
  • A fine amounting to up to $500

Reckless Driving Causing Bodily Injury

As the name suggests, reckless driving causing bodily injury is the offense you commit when you cause another person's injury while driving recklessly. You could be guilty under VC 23104 If the prosecutor can prove the facts listed below:

  • You did operate a car recklessly
  • You caused another person's injury while driving recklessly

Generally speaking, a VC 23104 charge is a misdemeanor offense, carrying the following possible penalties upon conviction:

  • A fine amounting to up to $1,000
  • Six months of jail time

Importance of Hiring an Attorney When Charged With Dry Reckless Offense Under VC 23103

Any criminal conviction, even for a non-severe offense like dry reckless, could affect your life in several ways. Aside from the hefty fines and lengthy jail time, a conviction under this statute will remain in your criminal record, affecting several aspects of your life, including the following:

  • The ability to secure reliable employment
  • The ability to secure a professional license, especially if your profession involves driving

Fortunately, you can avoid or lessen the repercussions of a VC 23103 charge conviction with the help of your attorney. Here are some of the advantages of retaining the services of an attorney if you are under investigation or arrest as a suspect in a DUI or dry reckless case:

He/she Can Help You With Paperwork and Documentation

A criminal case can involve a lot of paperwork and documentation, which the court will use to determine whether you are guilty. Without an attorney with experience in similar DUI-related cases, knowing what you need to support your defense arguments for the best possible outcome could be challenging.

Your attorney will obtain and prepare all the documents you need at every stage of the prosecution process to increase your odds of securing a favorable outcome.

He/she Has the Skill Needed to Challenge the Prosecutor's Evidence

At trial, the court cannot convict you of a VC 23103 violation if the prosecution team cannot prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That is where an attorney's services become critical. If your defense attorney can challenge and weaken the prosecutor's evidence against you, the court could drop or reduce your VC 23103 charges.

He/she Will Inform You of Your Legal Options and What to Expect

Worrying if you are under arrest or charged with any criminal offense is natural because you do not know what to expect or what the case could become. However, if you have an attorney in your corner, he/she can inform you of what to expect through every stage of the legal justice system and available legal options.

Generally speaking, the outcome of your VC 23103 charge will depend on the skills and aggressiveness of your defense attorney. Ensure the DUI attorney you hire is qualified, experienced, reputable, and credible for the best possible results in your case.

Find a Credible Defense Attorney Near Me

Maneuvering through the confusing criminal justice system after an arrest as a suspect in a DUI-related case could be challenging. However, you do not have to go through these times alone. Our attorneys at Monterey Criminal Attorney understand the confusion and fear these charges can bring and will do everything to assist you in securing a desirable outcome.

We invite you to call us at 831-574-1791 to schedule an obligation-free initial consultation with one of our reliable DUI attorneys for aggressive legal representation in your unique case.