A dry reckless is a lesser charge you could plead guilty to, rather than being charged with DUI. If the prosecutor accepts the plea bargain, you are subject to less stringent penalties. Whenever you face a DUI charge, arrest, or lawsuit, you want to hire a top-tier lawyer to avoid life-long consequences that accompany criminal convictions.

If you or your loved one are facing dry reckless charges or would like to file a plea bargain for your DUI charge to be reduced, contact an Orange County Criminal Lawyer. Our attorneys have many years of experience in handling DUI criminal defense cases. We will aggressively represent you in the criminal court procedures and fight for your rights. Our services are professional and client-oriented. Our law firm is located in Orange County, California.  

Definition of Dry Reckless Per State Law

Dry reckless is a misdemeanor crime in California. The California Vehicle Code 23103 defines dry reckless as driving a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for persons and property’s safety. This law makes it a crime for a person to operate a vehicle in a manner that could compromise the safety of other persons or damage property.

The offense is a typical plea bargain to defendants facing driving under the influence (DUI) or wet reckless charges. Usually, violation of VC 23152 section (a) driving under influence and section (b) driving with a BAC of 0.08% or above crimes can be reduced to dry reckless charges if you enter a plea deal with the prosecutor.

DUI crime suspects can enter a plea bargain for their offense to be reduced into the dry reckless crime. This is because reckless driving is a minor crime, and there will be no records of a drug crime. A conviction under the California Vehicle Code (VC) 23103 is not priorable. This means it cannot be used to increase sentences of subsequent DUI convictions. A dry reckless crime is a punishable crime on its own without association to plea bargains.

Elements of the Crime

For  you to be convicted under VC 23103, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of this crime:

  • You drove a vehicle on an off-street parking area or a highway.
  • You knowingly drove with malicious indifference to the safety of other road users or property.

Driving with wanton disregard of other people’s safety means that you know that the action you are doing can cause substantial harm to others, but you intentionally ignore the risk. Furthermore, it can include intentional failure to practice precaution in a situation where a reasonable person under similar circumstances would have practiced. Even if you did not intend to harm anyone, the prosecutor could still charge you with a reckless driving if it is evident that they exhibited reckless behavior. 

A highway is defined as any public area designed and maintained for vehicle passage and encompasses streets. An off-street parking area is a facility that offers spaces for the public to park their vehicle or regions provide for retail clients to park their cars at no fee as they shop. It is essential to note that you can be charged with a dry reckless even if you are on private property. The offense also includes careless driving on a private off-street parking facility that is open for the public.

If the police hold you in custody for a dry reckless offense, they can impound for up to 30 days your car in the application of VC 23109.2. As an offender, you are required to cater for any fees accrued due to your vehicle's impounding.

Dry Reckless VS Wet Reckless and DUI Crimes

In cases of DUI, negotiations between the prosecutor and the defendant's attorney revolve around the reduction of the charges into either wet reckless or dry reckless. The two carry less severe penalties as compared to a DUI. Both of these charges are under Vehicle Code 23103, which defines reckless driving laws. The wet reckless offense is defined in the VC 23103.5.

The significant difference between dry reckless and wet reckless is that the latter encompasses cases that involve reckless driving under the influence of alcohol. On the other hand, dry reckless does not entail alcohol or any other drug.

Also, pleading to a wet reckless offense leads to sentence enhancements if the defendant commits a DUI crime in the future. However, a dry reckless is not considered a DUI priorable. Hence, it cannot lead to punishment enhancement that applies to DUI's consequent crimes.

For example, Joe is granted a dry reckless plea bargain. A few months later, he is charged with a DUI offense. In that case, the DUI will be treated as a first driving under the influence case. Therefore, he will not be subject to sentence enhancements. Supposing Joe was convicted of a wet reckless, and then after a few months, found guilty of a DUI, the DUI crime would be treated as the second DUI offense. Wet reckless is a priorable DUI crime.

If you bargain for DUI reduction to a wet reckless, and the plea is granted, you want to continue pushing for a dry reckless plea bargain if possible. Even if wet reckless carries fewer penalties than a DUI, you are subject to a subsequent DUI offense if you drive while intoxicated in the future. Most prosecutors are reluctant to accept VC 23103 pleas due to their non-priorable nature. However, you can convince the prosecutor to agree to the plea bargain with a proficient and aggressive attorney.

The advantages of a Vehicle Code 23103 plea bargain over a DUI charge include:

  • The offender serves shorter jail sentences. Unlike a sentence for violating VC 23152 DUI that carries a 6-month jail penalty, a dry reckless one requires you to serve a ninety-day jail sentence. Therefore, if the defendant breaches the probationary terms, they will only be subject to a 90-day jail term for dry recklessness compared to DUI's higher sentence provisions. Furthermore, one year, the DUI penalty is enhanced if the defendant holds a prior conviction of the same crime while there are no sentence enhancements for subsequent dry reckless crimes.
  • You will not face sentence enhancements for future convictions of driving under the influence. The DUI charges face an enhancement of penalties for each subsequent conviction within ten years. However, if you are granted the plea bargain, the dry reckless charge will not count if you are charged with a DUI in the future.
  • It leads to reduced probationary periods. While a DUI offense carries three to five years of probation, dry reckless charge probation lasts for a shorter period of one to two years.
  • The defendant will pay lesser amounts of fine. The minimum fine imposed for a dry reckless reduction charge is $145, while a DUI reduction charge is $390.
  • At most, the offender undergoes a six months program, but it is not always the case. In some cases, the punishment will end after the jail sentence or after payment of the fine and court fees.
  • The defendant retains their driving license. Unlike when convicted of a DUI offense where your license is suspended for six months, or longer if you hold a past DUI or wet reckless conviction, dry reckless charges do not require mandatory revocation of a driving license.
  • A dry reckless conviction does not require installing the ignition interlock device in the offender's vehicle, as does a DUI conviction. An ignition interlock device is installed to ensure you do not drive under the influence of alcohol. Typically it functions like a Breathalyzer. The user blows on the device for their breath to be tested with alcohol. Fortunately, if you are charged with a dry reckless offense, you will not be required to install the device since your license will not be at risk of suspension.
  • It will not affect your Insurance policy. A California dry reckless commercial and professional background does not call for intensive scrutiny as does a California wet reckless or DUI charge. Consequently, if you get a dry reckless plea bargain, you can avoid canceling your vehicle insurance to avoid plummeting of your premium.

Applicable Arguments when Seeking A Dry Reckless Plea Bargain

You must convince the prosecutor to enter a plea bargain instead of filing DUI charges. To persuade the prosecutor to accept your dry reckless plea bargain, you will need an adept attorney to represent you. You are in a better position to acquire the plea bargain if the preliminary alcohol test results show that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was below or at the legal limit of 0.08%. If the results reveal a BAC of 0.08% or above, it is an aggravating factor that could reduce the prosecutor's chances of agreeing to the plea bargain. This is because such results will strengthen the prosecutor's DUI case against you.

Likewise, your chances of being granted the plea bargain reduction of your DUI are enhanced if there is insufficient evidence to convict you, or the available evidence is highly flawed. Since test results of DUI cases are prone to errors, your attorney can uncover weaknesses in the prosecutor's evidence.

For instance, your attorney can point out that the breathalyzer used to test you was faulty and showed erroneous BAC results. The police should ensure that the testing equipment is well maintained to avoid errors. So if your attorney discovers such mistakes, the case against you is weakened, and the prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain.

Additionally, your attorney can point out that an expert did not carry out the tests. Therefore, the evidence is not credible. For the tests to be valid, they should be carried out by an officer trained on how to handle the testing equipment and the process itself. Failure to adhere to that can lead to inaccurate readings of the BAC. Through a retest, you can prove that you were not driving under the influence. Hence you will only answer for reckless driving.

Penalties of Dry Reckless

As we mentioned earlier, defendants charged with DUI or wet reckless prefer pleading guilty to the dry reckless since it carries less severe penalties. The dry reckless crime is charged as a misdemeanor. Possible penalties are:

  • A fine not below $145 and not above $1,000.
  • Misdemeanor probation of 1 to 3 years, depending on your case's circumstances.
  • Serving a minimum of five days or a maximum of 90 days in county jail.

However, rarely is the defendant required to serve a jail term since fines or probation sentences are the most common penalties. Nevertheless, a dry reckless conviction attaches two strikes to your driving record. Even though a judge cannot legally enhance a dry reckless crime's stipulated penalties, they can impose harsher judgment with each subsequent conviction of this crime.

If the court authorizes that your penalty will be a probation term, you will be subject to informal probation. You must follow the conditions set for the probation. Informal probation does not require you to report to a probationary officer. Successfully finishing the probationary term creates a path to clearance of your conviction record.

Numerous subsequent violations of VC 23103 can lead to loss of your driver’s license ownership through negligent operator license suspension. The ultimate decision on whether the defendant should retain their driver’s license is determined in a DMV administrative hearing. If your DUI is reduced to a dry reckless, you need to file a motion at the DMV administrative court to retain your license. The DMV hearing should be set ten days after you are arrested for a driving crime. It is critical to involve your attorney to ensure that your driving privileges are not barred.

The DMV can legally suspend, place on probation, or revoke a driver's rights to hold a license on the grounds of negligence. A negligent driver's license privileges can be withdrawn if they have more than four points within twelve years on their DMV record, six points in two months, or eight months in thirty-six years.                                                                                                                                                                     

If a defendant’s DUI charge is reduced to the dry reckless offense, they can be required to undergo an alcohol treatment program or a rehabilitation program. However, the program is not mandatory if you are directly charged with a dry reckless offense.

Expunging Dry Reckless

A conviction under VC 23103 reflects on the defendant’s driving record for up to thirteen years. The procedure for the expungement of a dry reckless conviction is normally automatic since there is no paperwork involved. After the given period passes, the DMV expunges the defendant's record. However, you can file a motion to seal a dry reckless conviction record once you complete the probationary period. Litigation from a skillful attorney can better your chances of being granted the expungement, also making the legal procedures easier.

Common Defenses to the Dry Reckless Crime

You Did Not Drive the Vehicle

- The burden of proof lies on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove the vehicle when the crime was committed. Your attorney can argue that you were not the one behind the wheel. If the prosecutor fails to ascertain this criminal element, the charges against you will likely be acquitted in court during the hearing.

Application of the Duty of Care

- To be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove that you acted in negligence while driving. Therefore, if your attorney demonstrates that you exercised reasonable care, prosecution for violating VC 23103 will be invalid.

The Committed the Offense Out of Necessity

- Another suitable defense to reckless driving charges is proving that the defendant drove recklessly due to an emergency that they were not liable for creating. Furthermore, this defense will be valid if the crisis necessitated that the driver avoids harming other road users.

Insufficient Evidence

- A proficient attorney can challenge the prosecutor's evidence and prove it not credible to support this crime's elements. The evidence can also be suppressed if it was obtained unlawfully. Without substantial evidence to prove the charges, the prosecutor can drop the case, or the court can acquit you of the crime.


- Per California Vehicle Code 23103, overspeeding alone is insufficient evidence and cannot lead a defendant to your dry reckless conviction. Speeding can be prosecuted as a dry reckless depending on specific factors of the commission of the crime, such as time, location, and third parties' presence. If the defendant does not pose harm to other persons or property by speeding, then an element of the crime is missing, and the defendant cannot face conviction under VC 23103.

Crimes Related to Dry Reckless

Depending on circumstances, the crime of reckless driving is accompanied by other crimes that occur in its commission. The prosecutor can add additional related charges to a dry reckless when filing a complaint against an offender. If you are apprehended for a driving crime, it is vital to involve an attorney in your case as early as possible so that they can reduce the amount of exposure you may be facing.

  1. Exhibition of Speed

Exhibiting speed is also a typical plea bargain for DUI charges. Vehicle Code 23109 (c) makes it a crime to"engage in a motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway. Therefore, if you willfully take part in any form of a speeding competition on a public road, you can be charged with this crime. Other ways of exhibiting speed include burning or screeching tires or accelerating after a stop sign.

The penalties for the exhibition of speed include a fine of up to $500 or ninety days in county jail. The fine mentioned is a "base fine," meaning the fine imposed can be higher than that. Conviction of this offense adds two points on the defendant's DMV and is added to their criminal record.

  1. Driving with a High Blood Alcohol Content

California Vehicle Code 23152(b) outlines a DUI law prohibiting driving a vehicle while your BAC is at 0.08% or higher. The first and second offense are charged as misdemeanors. As the number of convictions increases, the defendant is prone to sentence enhancements. The defendant may face suspension of their driver’s license. However, they can continue driving if they install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.

The penalties depend on whether the offense is your first or you hold other prior DUI convictions, your criminal record, and whether your offense fits as a misdemeanor or as a felony. The penalties can include probation, fines, jail sentences, and attending driving programs after a driving license is revoked.

  1. Reckless Driving Causing Bodily Injury

You can be charged with violating VC 23104 if you drive in wanton disregard of a third party's safety and property, thereby inflicting substantial injuries on the third party. The elements of this crime are similar to those of VC 23103. The additional feature that the prosecutor needs to prove is that a third party suffered significant injuries due to the driver's reckless driving. As defined in this law, considerable body injuries are any physical injuries that require professional medical care.

This crime is charged as a California misdemeanor and can lead to further charges in a civil court filed by the injured party for compensation purposes. The criminal penalties include serving up to six months in a county jail or paying a maximum fine of $1,000. You may also be granted probation, depending on the nature of your case.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

It is vital to seek help from an expert criminal defense attorney if you want your DUI charge reduced to a dry reckless one. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we aptly defend clients facing DUI criminal charges. We critically analyze all aspects of the case to find loopholes in the prosecutor's evidence and build efficient defenses for our clients.

Being result-oriented, our attorneys will aggressively fight for your best interests in court and focus on delivering successful results. We also provide free case reviews and consultation for our clients. Our law firm provides top-notch legal services within Orange County and throughout the Southern California region. For more information, contact us today at 714-262-4833.