Being charged with a DUI can mean both criminal and administrative penalties being held against you and your driving record. As a result, you may incur license suspensions, increases in your insurance rates, and misdemeanors and felonies added to your record.
However, in this blog, we will introduce the concept of a “wet reckless”, which is a DUI conviction plea bargained down to a lesser charge of reckless or careless driving. We will discuss what a conviction of reckless or careless driving entails and the penalties that are associated with these charges.
The Penalties of a DUI Conviction
First, let’s discuss how a DUI is determined and charged and what sorts of penalties may come with a DUI conviction.
A DUI is charged if:
- You have a blood or breath alcohol content of 0.080 or greater
- You refuse to submit to a chemical test while showing signs of impairment or being under the influence
- You are operating any vehicle while substantially incapable of operating a vehicle safely
Note: You can still be charged with a DUI even if your test result comes back below 0.080.
A DUI charge can come with:
- Up to a year in jail
- Fines of up to $1,000
- 48 to 96 hours of public service
- A period of license suspension of 9 months
These charges all describe the criminal and administrative penalties associated with a first time DUI. Penalties grow in severity with subsequent DUI charges.
A DUI over the age of 21 is considered a misdemeanor, and so are the second and third DUI or DWAI. However, a conviction of a DUI with three or more previous DUIs or DWAIs is considered a Class 4 felony.
Reckless Driving and “Wet Reckless” Charges
A “reckless driving” conviction is a class 2 traffic misdemeanor in Colorado. It is the act of operating a vehicle with the “wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property”.
- In a legal sense, “wanton disregard” refers to a person understanding that an action or conduct introduces risk to a person or property, but chose to act in such a way anyway
- “Willful” here basically means intentional or purposeful
Like a DUI, the penalties and consequences for a reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances surrounding the conviction. But, possible penalties for a first time offense of reckless driving include:
- Up to 90 days in jail
- $150 to $300 in fines
Possible penalties for repeat offenses of reckless driving include:
- Up to six months in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
Colorado traffic law also describes another offense called “careless driving”, an offense defined as “driving a vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the attendant circumstances of the streets and highways”.
The line dividing the two offenses can be difficult to draw, but generally, reckless driving involves an obvious danger presented to the motorist whereas careless driving is closer to negligence.
The penalties for careless driving are the same as those for reckless driving, except that the number of demerit points added to the motorist’s driving record will be less for careless driving.
With a reckless driving conviction holding less severe penalties, it may be the goal of a defendant and his or her legal advisor to take a reckless driving charge in place of a DUI.
This is called a “wet reckless”: when a DUI conviction is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge. This matter can be difficult to bargain down, often depending on the severity of the circumstances surrounding your conviction.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.