Few expect that a pleasant dinner and a couple of drinks would land them into trouble. Yet this often happens. Drivers need not set out to get drunk in order to be judged so by police officers. Once determined, a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction yields hefty penalties – in terms of fines, driving privileges and even incarceration. For the fortunate, there is legal recourse to sidestep these punishments.
Apprehension and Evaluation
If a constable views a vehicle moving about abnormally – weaving, going too fast, or even too slow – the officer may opt to pull the driver over. In many cases, police personnel are assigned to watch areas wit a history of DUI occurrences. In addition, law enforcement presence often increases over holiday weekends. Regardless, the police officer must harbor a reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired. An exception to this is the sobriety checkpoint, where vehicle operators undergo random testing for alcohol or drug effects.
Although reasonable suspicion serves as the definitive threshold for pulling someone over, police require probable cause to execute an arrest. This criterion is gained through a variety of measures. They observe a driver for slurring of words, alcohol on the breath and open containers in the car or truck. Field sobriety tests can judge the driver’s ability to walk, turn, maintain balance and coordinate hands with eyes. Also, a test for nystagmus reveals any slackening of rapid eye movement, an indicator of chemical influence.
For the sake of greater probability, the officer can – with permission – administer a preliminary alcohol screening, usually by means of a hand-held breathalyzer. This reading is not accurate enough to count as evidence in court, but can certainly bolster probable cause for an arrest. Refusal to cooperate with such a screening can lead to immediate arrest, at which point a more precise “evidential breath test” discovers the approximate blood alcohol content.
Processing an Arrested Individual
Once in custody, the driver goes to the local precinct where he or she is processed (i.e. charged or “booked”). Police inventory possessions, document the arrest and record personal information like weight, height, hair and eye color etc. They then fingerprint and photograph the suspect. At this point, the suspect is released on his or her own recognizance or required to post bail. The driver’s license is held in abeyance until a scheduled court date. The suspect receives a temporary permit until such time.
Options for the Suspect
The police can only book a subject for DUI (or DWI – driving while intoxicated). The suspect can choose to plead guilty and accept the judge’s discipline; contest the charge and ask for a trial at which evidence is introduced and police are cross-examined; or work out some sort of plea. Worth noting is that if the driver has a history of drunk driving, the options are much more limited. Still, a first-time offender might escape the harshest penalties by pleading “wet reckless.”
How Does a Wet Reckless Plea Differ from a DUI Guilty Plea?
In essence, a conviction of wet reckless vs DUI is a verdict of reckless driving, a lesser offense compared to DUI. Reckless driving refers to operating a vehicle in a manner that endangers other people. While different states impose different censures for reckless driving, they are almost consistently less severe than DUIs regarding money owed, time served, and privileges revoked. Any number of actions count in this category: speeding, running a red light, passing a stopped school bus or texting while at the wheel, to name a few.
For a first offense, a reckless conviction vs DUI often finds drivers back on the road sooner than after a drunk driving decision. Yes, those convicted can be on the hook for thousands of dollars, DMV points, a defensive driving course and, no doubt, higher insurance premiums. Nevertheless, a reckless finding blunts the full force of a DUI sentence. It is “wet” because alcohol is a determining factor but it ranks only as a misdemeanor in terms of sentencing. Depending on additional circumstances, a DUI is often a felony crime.
How Does a Wet Reckless Conviction Differ from a Reckless Finding?
A wet reckless vs DUI judicial finding looks just like a reckless scenario…in the immediate. The punishment and status of a convictee looks very much like that of a standard, or “dry” reckless driver. The difference lies in the future. If the traffic incident in question is a one and done, then the driver has a reckless conviction on record and nothing more.
The distinction is activated when a second offense occurs. Upon this event, the original conviction–the wet reckless–reverts to a first offense DUI. In so doing, it counts against the driver much more harshly. In certain states, for example, 2nd offenses call for the seizure of the vehicle, two years of license revocation, fines up to $3,500 and nearly a year of jail time. Had the second offense been a first-time DUI, such discipline would not be so draconian. The conversion of the wet reckless is to be dreaded, and hopefully an incentive to staying sober behind the wheel.
How to Plea for a Wet Reckless vs DUI Decision
An experienced DUI lawyer knows the ins and outs of court proceedings. Knowing the rules for apprehension, sobriety testing, arrest and booking, this attorney can find out if protocols were not followed to the letter. He or she can also find legal precedents regarding similar violators. Combine this knowledge with a sympathetic judge and a wet reckless vs DUI plea might be possible.
A wet reckless plea reduces administrative sanctions and eliminates criminal prosecution. On its face, it spares a violator the toughest punishments normally imposed on drunk drivers. By the same token, it has the potential to make a subsequent offense more serious than a dry reckless conviction would. With competent legal counsel, a wet reckless vs DUI plea is acceptable to many courts for first-time offenders.