In Virginia, wet reckless refers to reckless driving where alcohol is involved. It’s one level below a drunk driving charge – and much preferable to get compared to a Virginia DWI conviction. Virginia has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country. But depending on your jurisdiction and the circumstances of your arrest, a good DUI/DWI defense attorney may be able to mount a successful defense, or work out a deal to have you plead guilty the lesser wet reckless charge.
It might be a long shot. But prosecutors may be willing to work out a plea deal under certain circumstances. DWI in Virginia can be difficult to prove. And if there are problems with the case, or you’re a borderline and blew just below a 0.08 on the Breathalyzer, and it’s your first offense, they may be open to a wet reckless plea rather than go to trial.
Not every jurisdiction in Virginia recognizes a wet reckless plea. Some jurisdictions don’t allow it. Your attorney will know what the climate in your particular jurisdiction is.
Why plead guilty to “wet reckless?”
Reckless driving in Virginia carries lesser penalties compared to a DWI.
Six month license suspension for a wet reckless charge, compared to a 1-year administrative suspension for a Virginia drunk driving or DWI charge.
A wet reckless charge gives the judge more discretion in whether to issue a restricted drivers license, rather than suspend it completely. A restricted license still lets you get to work, church, and medical appointments (though not much else).
A wet reckless adjudication will not require installation of an engine interlock device. A Virginia DWI conviction will.
A second conviction can result in a license suspension for three years, and incarceration for up to one year.
A wet reckless charge can help you avoid Indiana OWI sentence enhancers
A successful plea to a wet reckless charge takes on particular importance if a DWI conviction would incur “sentence enhancers.”
For example, a DUI with a minor child in the car carries a mandatory 5-day additional jail sentence, and an additional fine of $500 to $1,000. However, these sentence enhancers don’t apply to a reckless driving conviction.
When you plead “not guilty” or “no contest” to a wet reckless in Virginia, you’ll still face penalties. They just aren’t as severe as the maximum for a DWI conviction. And you are more likely to receive more lenient driving privileges if the judge imposes a restricted license.
You can expect to be required to complete Virginia’s Alcohol Safety Action Program. (ASAP).
There’s a cost for ASAP: The standard fee is $300, plus a $100 “intervention fee.”
But you’d pay it anyway with a DWI in Virginia. And the whole deal with a wet reckless conviction is still a better deal than a DWI on your record.
Less stigma to recklessness than drunk driving.
There’s much less stigma to a reckless driving conviction than to a drunk driving conviction.
Also, some employers, universities, and other institutions will specifically ask you if you’ve ever been convicted of a DUI as part of their background check. Getting a “wet reckless” driving conviction rather than an outright DUI conviction allows you to truthfully answer “no” to that question.
That’s a benefit that lasts a lifetime.
Attempting to plead down to a wet reckless charge down from a DWI in Virginia doesn’t make sense for everyone. In many cases, a good DUI defense lawyer will be able to find holes in the prosecution’s case that may get the charges dropped or enable you to get a “not guilty” verdict. Which is a far, far more preferable outcome.
If the police didn’t have probable cause to stop you, if they conducted an illegal search, if they didn’t follow the correct procedures for the breathalyzer test or roadside sobriety test, or if they didn’t read you your Miranda rights — all these things an and do routinely cause DUI charges to get dropped even before they get to trial.
Every case is different. But if the circumstances of your case involve police misconduct, error, or omissions of any kind, or failure to document anything, it might be worth going to the mat to defeat the state’s DWI charge.
A good DUI defense attorney can walk you through your options.
Give them a reason to cut you some slack.
In the meantime, do everything you can to show the DA, the judge, and potential jurors that you’re serious about making this incident a one-time thing. Enroll in an alcohol or drug treatment program. Seek counseling, and be able to document it. Complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action program. Compete an online or in-person safe driving course (these can pay for themselves if they get you a discount on your auto insurance).
Attorneys call this creating equities. That is, creating reasons for the DA and the judge to cut you some slack.
Drawing out the process a little by putting off court dates gives you time to rack up equities and give you a stack of things you can point to to show the judge and prosecutor that you are not likely to reoffend, and that you’ve made the lifestyle changes you need to make.
That may help make prosecutors more willing to accept a reckless driving plea rather than a DWI, even if they weren’t willing to consider it in the early days and weeks of your case. Your attorney can help you make your case.
You can expect your insurance premiums to go up, even after a successful plea deal to a wet reckless. But in most cases the financial damage won’t be as severe as with a DWI conviction in Virginia.
According to research from Forbes, car insurance rates after a single reckless driving conviction go up by an average of 80%.
But that’s just a range. Some carriers increase them by much more than 80%, and some carriers are much more lenient. Your age, marital status, prior driving record, credit score, and Zip code of residence can make a big difference in your rate, too.
For all these reasons, it’s important to shop around multiple insurance carriers after getting a citation for anything that will require an SR22, FL44, or any administrative or court proceeding.
Once you’ve joined the ranks of the “high-risk drivers,” your local strip mall general practitioner who sells life, health and auto for the same company probably isn’t going to get you the best deal anymore. He couldn’t find you a better deal if he wanted to: Most of them can only sell insurance from a single carrier.
High-risk drivers are a specialized market. Different insurance companies price high-risk drivers very differently. Sometimes radically so. That’s why you should go through a true independent agency that’s not captive to a single insurance company, but can shop your application around to a whole bunch of carriers, and have them compete for your business.
Yes, you’ll probably pay more than you were before. But by shopping around, keeping carriers honest, and forcing them to compete for your business, you can minimize the financial hit and stay on the road.
And it’s a good idea to keep shopping around periodically. After six months, a year, two years elapse from your conviction, some carriers will begin discounting rates. Others won’t.
If you’re with the right insurance expert, they’ll be happy to run a fresh set of quotes for you every so often – again, to keep carriers honest, and make sure you get the best deal.
Don’t Skimp On Liability Protection.
One last thing: If you’re on a budget, and you have to cut back on something to keep your insurance in force, go with a higher deductible, rather than skimp on liability coverage. You can solve a $1,000 problem by working some overtime. You can’t solve a $250,000 problem. And that could easily be the bill if you are involved in an accident with injuries.
The state minimums aren’t nearly enough to protect you or other drivers around you. Get and keep as much liability insurance as you can afford.
I also recommend keeping unsinsured motorist coverage. Especially in Virginia.
Virginia has a quirk in their insurance laws that allows people to drive legally without insurance for up to 12 months. They just pay a $500 fee and they’re legal to drive. They’re still a menace to everyone around them: If they cause damage, they can’t afford to pay for anyone’s medical bills, lost income, damage to their vehicle or property, or anyone else.
If you’re in an accident with one of these people (they are legion!), you’ll be glad you were carrying uninsured motorist insurance.
To get covered, contact Select Insurance Group today. We’re an independent, non-captive brokerage that specializes in connecting higher-risk drivers with the best insurance deals available in their state.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the road!
Steve “Mr. Insurance” Ludwig
CEO, Select Insurance Group