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Negotiation Or Plea Bargaining Your Drunk Driving Case

There are three big advantages to hiring a DUI defense attorney to handle your drunk driving matter: 1.) Their knowledge of criminal law, specifically driving under the influence statutes and defenses; 2.) Using this knowledge to negotiate the case with the prosecutor to reduce the charges or the punishment; and, 3.) Give you advise on whether to accept the prosecutor’s offer or proceed with motions and/or a trial.

Your DUI attorney will use their criminal defense knowledge when reviewing the discovery, looking for weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. Those weaknesses may be shared with the prosecutor when negotiating the case with the hopes of getting an offer of a reduced charge or reduced punishment.

The negotiation between the criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor is commonly known as plea bargaining. The prosecutor gives an offer on the case, which is their recommended sentence if the defendant agrees to plead guilty, thus avoiding the time and expense of a trial. Defendants should be aware that the judge has the final say in accepting the plea bargain.

The advantage of the plea agreement is the defendant knows before entering a change of plea what the sentence will be. This is unlike if the case went to trial and the defendant was subsequently convicted. Then the judge sentences the defendant, and that sentence can be more or less punishment than what was originally offered, depending on the evidence at trial.

Typically, in a misdemeanor DUI case, the defendant may be given the option to plead to a lesser crime of a wet reckless or a dry reckless. These are found under California Penal Code Section 23103.

A wet reckless is recklessly driving a motor vehicle after consuming an alcoholic beverage or drug. It is a misdemeanor. This is the first level of reduced charges because it still involves alcohol and/or drugs. The probation term and fines and fees are typically less than a DUI. The standard alcohol program is not mandatory. There is no license suspension in addition to any suspension given by the DMV. However, a wet reckless will be considered a prior DUI if you are charged with drunk driving within 10 years of pleading to the wet reckless.

A dry reckless is a misdemeanor reckless driving charge without the element of alcohol or drugs. Therefore, it does not count as a DUI on your driving record or criminal record. The probation and fines/fees are the same as the wet reckless but there is no DUI program requirement, (other than what may be imposed by the DMV). There is no license suspension in addition to any suspension given by the DMV. But, it does count as two points against your license.

If the criminal lawyer is unable to get the prosecutor to agree to the wet or dry reckless, then reduced punishment is negotiated. The DUI lawyer will convey the offer to the client, explaining their rights and best options on how to proceed. The defendant may decide to accept the prosecutor’s offer and enter a guilty plea or they may decide to proceed with motions and /or a trial.

The above blog article is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may change and may not apply to your case. For the latest information or to get legal advice, speak to a DUI attorney in your area.


If you are charged with DUI in San Diego and you are not sure what to do next, never just plead guilty. Talk to the Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman to discuss your rights. For a free, confidential phone consultation, use the “Contact Us” form on this page or call 619-260-1122 today.