California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC: Dry Reckless

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimereckless driving

In many instances, people who are charged with LA DUI offenses may be eligible for a reduced DUI charge. One of these reduced charges is reckless driving, also referred to as "dry reckless," under California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC. A dry reckless conviction spares someone a DUI conviction on his or her record and will not trigger an independent alcohol-related driver's license suspension. Unlike wet reckless convictions under California Vehicle Code 23103/23103.5 VC and driving under the influence convictions pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC, dry reckless charges are not priorable, which means they cannot be used to enhance future DUI charges.

In addition to being used to resolve driving under the influence charges, reckless driving is also a criminal offense for which someone can be criminally charged. To prove that a defendant is guilty of reckless driving under California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC, the following elements must be present:

  1. The defendant drove a vehicle on a highway or in an off-street parking facility AND
  2. The defendant intentionally drove with wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Someone acts with wanton disregard for safety when he or she is aware that his or her actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm and then intentionally ignores that risk. The driver does not have to intend to cause damage. Driving over the posted speed limit is not enough by itself to establish that a defendant drove with wanton disregard for safety, however it can be a factor in any determination.

2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Wet Reckless - California Vehicle Code Section 23103/23103.5 VC
  2. Exhibition of Speed - California Vehicle Code Section 23109(c) VC
  3. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
  4. Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 Percent or Higher - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC

3. Examples

A man is charged with DUI in Los Angeles after he was stopped for an equipment violation and was found to have a blood-alcohol content of exactly 0.08 percent. Although the man is initially charged with driving under the influence of alcohol under California Vehicle Code Section 231052(a) VC and California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC, the prosecutor handling the case recognizes that there may be problems proving the case and also notes that the man's driving conduct was not at issue. As a result, the prosecutor agrees to allow the man to plead to dry reckless under California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC. Even though the man's driving conduct was not blatantly reckless, pleading to this reduced charge prevents a DUI conviction.

In another example, an officer observes a woman driving at a high rate of speed and aggressively weaving in and out of traffic, while on a cell phone the entire time. While this woman would most likely be cited for the various infractions, she could also be charged criminally with reckless driving as a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC.

4. Defenses to Reckless Driving / Dry Reckless

In most cases, dry reckless charges are offered to defendants charged with Los Angeles DUI offenses where a reduction of charges is appropriate. This may be because of an evidentiary issue or due to some other factor that would support reduction of charges. Dry reckless charges are almost exclusively offered to DUI offenders whose BAC was at or very near the legal limit, which is 0.08 percent.

In cases where the defendant is charged with reckless driving independent of any DUI claim, the prosecutor must be able to establish a wanton disregard for the safety of others (or property). If the defendant's conduct did not rise to this level, he or she would not be liable for reckless driving as a misdemeanor (but could still be cited for the various traffic violations as infractions).

5. Penalties

Dry reckless under California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC is a misdemeanor level offense. Unlike DUI and wet reckless convictions, a dry reckless conviction cannot be used to enhance future DUI charges. In addition, a conviction for dry reckless will not trigger a DMV license suspension. The maximum penalty for a dry reckless conviction is 90 days in jail, however it is very rare for anyone to ever be sent to jail on a conviction for this offense. If the dry reckless charge was reduced from a DUI, the defendant may still have to take a 12-hour alcohol class or attend additional programming. The fine for dry reckless is substantially less than it would be for a LA DUI conviction.

6. Criminal Defense for Los Angeles DUI

If you have been charged with a Los Angeles DUI offense, it is critical that you speak with an effective Los Angeles DUI Attorney right away. The early involvement of an experienced DUI attorney may help in ultimately getting a charge dismissed or significantly reduced. Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney who is highly respected by prosecutors and law enforcement alike. Mr. Kraut works hard to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about dry reckless, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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