You’re stopped on suspicion of drunk driving in Texas. You follow the right advice, but your breathalyzer test shows a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of over 0.08%, and that figure is confirmed by a blood test back at the station. The date for your DWI trial has been set, and that’s it. You’re facing prosecution in court, plus fines, a suspended license, and potentially prison.
In some cases, that may be the exact scenario you face. But under certain circumstances, it can be possible to plead down your DWI to a Wet Reckless. Read on to learn when that outcome is possible and how the process works. It’s not applicable in every case, but there are notable advantages if you can plead down your charge.
Let’s start with a clear definition of a DWI. Some states differentiate between a DUI and a DWI (driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated). In states where this is the case, a DWI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol. By contrast, a DUI covers driving while under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, or a combination of the above. However, Texas doesn’t make the distinction, meaning that a DWI is effectively an umbrella term for all forms of driving under the influence.
Although a Wet Reckless is a dangerous driving charge and counts as a lesser offense compared to a DWI, it’s still not something you want to have on your record. Leaving aside the legal penalties of a Wet Reckless, you may still face other consequences, like higher insurance premiums. Moreover, this first-time offense will be considered if you’re ever charged again in the future for a DWI. That’s significant because repeat offenders face much more severe penalties.
So let’s now look at some of the key differences between a DWI and a Wet Reckless.
In Texas, you can’t be charged with a Wet Reckless in isolation. Instead, it’s the result of a plea bargain for a DWI charge. First-time offenders are more likely to be offered this option, as are defendants where there may be potential discrepancies in the prosecution’s case.
A Wet Reckless is classified as a misdemeanor, which means it’s still a criminal - and not a civil - offense. Most first-time, and even second-time, DWI offenses still count as misdemeanors unless aggravating factors exist, such as having a minor in the car or causing a fatality or severe injury. For aggravated offenses or a third violation, you’ll face prosecution for a felony, which is a much more serious charge.
There are significant differences between the penalties for a DWI and a Wet Reckless offense. For alcohol or drug-related DWI convictions, you could be looking at a fine that can reach $2,000 alongside up to 180 days in jail that includes three mandatory days, and the loss of your license for up to a year. By comparison, a dangerous driving-related Wet Reckless charge can result in a fine of up to $200 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
It’s hardly surprising that the courts come down hard on repeat offenders. Judges may show you some leniency on your first offense, perhaps if you’re only just over the limit, or you can show genuine mitigating circumstances. But that all changes if you’re charged with a subsequent DWI. All the official punishments - fines, jail time, and length of license suspension - are much more severe. For a second DWI offense, the penalties are twice as serious, and third-time offenders face even harsher sanctions than that, as well as felony charges.
If you’re convicted of a Wet Reckless, you may somehow convince yourself that it doesn't count as a DWI. Yet, that’s a big mistake. A Wet Reckless can stay on your record for up to ten years and counts as a previous offense if you face a subsequent DWI charge.
If your DWI does go to court, the same rules apply as in any trial: you’re innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you’re guilty of the charge. After all the evidence has been presented, it’s down to the judge or jury to reach a verdict.
It’s tough - though not impossible - to challenge the prosecution's evidence in a DWI. You may question the procedures followed by the arresting officer or dispute the test results, for example. But these are intricate legal and technical matters, and you’ll almost certainly need the support of an experienced DWI defense attorney.
Unless you’re a legal professional yourself, you’re probably not familiar with how the process for a DWI charge and plea-bargaining work. That’s why it’s so essential to employ the best DWI attorney you can access. By harnessing their expert legal knowledge and practical experience from previous cases, they may be able to reduce your charge from a DWI to a Wet Reckless.
Even if they can’t get your charge reduced, a DWI lawyer may still be able to help by examining your case for any inconsistencies, petitioning for an occupational license that allows you to drive to work or school, or negotiating better sentencing terms with the judge.
The consequences of a DWI conviction are serious, so you should do everything in your power to explore ways of reducing or even dismissing your charge. The most practical and effective way to do so is working with an experienced DWI defense lawyer. So get in touch with our team for a free initial case assessment to see how we can help.