Can DUI Be Reduced To Reckless Driving?
Oftentimes, reckless driving involves instances of observably treacherous driving such as street racing, weaving through traffic, or driving at high speeds in areas where there are pedestrians. But in the DUI context, the driver’s intoxication alone might be enough to qualify as reckless driving. In other words, even if an intoxicated motorist’s driving pattern is normal, the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be considered inherently dangerous to other people and property. Some states even have a brand of reckless driving that’s specific to offenses involving drugs or alcohol.
These drug and alcohol related offenses typically come with consequences in addition to those imposed for standard reckless driving. For instance, some states require substance abuse treatment for reckless driving convictions that involved drugs or alcohol. When a driver has been charged with driving under the influence, a DUI attorney will determine if, due to the circumstances and evidence in your case, the charge can be reduced or dropped altogether. One option that any skilled attorney will look into is getting the DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving charge. Though reckless driving is a serious offense that will result in penalties, the degree of punishment is far less severe than those imposed on a person convicted of a DUI. However, some states use other terms for the offense, like driving to endanger and reckless operation. Generally, you can be convicted of reckless driving for purposefully or knowingly operating a vehicle in a manner that poses a substantial danger to other people or property. The type and severity of DUI and reckless driving penalties vary greatly by state. To learn more about the minimum and maximum DUI and reckless driving punishments in a specific state, consult an attorney who is licensed to practice in that state.
• Jail Time: Both reckless driving and DUI charges can result in jail time. However, the amount of jail time that must be served is usually far less for reckless driving offenses. In most cases, a reckless driving offense may carry a sentence of no jail time to a few days of jail time, while a DUI charge could result in up to a year in jail. In addition, drivers arrested for a DUI typically must spend at least a few hours in jail after the arrest, while drivers charged with reckless driving may simply be ticketed and allowed to drive home.
• Fines: Those convicted of reckless driving will pay lower fines and court fees than drivers convicted of a DUI.
• Your Record: In many states, a reckless driving charge is a lesser offense than a DUI. For example, in Utah, a DUI is a first-degree misdemeanor, while a reckless driving charge is a second-degree misdemeanor. It is important to note that in certain cases, such as when driving under the influence or reckless driving results in bodily injury, the charges could be upgraded to a felony offense.
• Impounded Car: In most states, authorities impound the vehicle when drivers are arrested for drunk driving. The car may be impounded for several days, and the owner of the vehicle must pay the impound fee in order to get the car back. Some states may also impound the car when a driver is ticketed for reckless driving; however, this usually only happens when the driver is charged with another offense.
• Revocation of the License: DUI punishments often involve the suspension or restriction of the driver’s license. The license may be restricted or revoked in reckless driving cases, but this typically only happens when the driver committed other offenses.
Additional Drunk Driving Penalties
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, those convicted of a DUI may also be sentenced to:
• Alcohol or Drug Education Classes: Drivers convicted of DUI are often required to attend a minimum number of drug or alcohol courses within a set time period.
• Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock device analyzes the alcohol content of a driver’s breath before he or she can start the motor. When an ignition interlock device is installed, the driver is required to blow into the device every time they want to start the car. If the breath-alcohol content is too high, the car won’t start.
• Probation: When a person is convicted of a DUI, they may be placed under probation for a pre-determined amount of time.
Most DUI cases are resolved through plea bargaining. In other words, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a criminal charge in exchange for some form of leniency from the prosecution. For instance, a DUI plea bargain might involve a defendant pleading guilty to a DUI charge in exchange for the prosecution agreeing to fines and jail time that are below the allowable maximums. In other cases, a plea bargain might involve the prosecution dismissing the DUI charge and the defendant entering a plea to a less serious charge.
When such a plea deal is for a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a wet reckless. Plea bargaining rules differ by state. But the majority of states allow some plea bargaining in DUI cases. So, while prosecutors are often reluctant to reduce a DUI to a reckless driving charge, it’s at least a possibility in most states. There are, however, a few states that prohibit plea bargaining altogether in cases where DUI charges are filed. Of course, for defendants in these states, a wet reckless plea deal isn’t normally an option. Generally, prosecutors are willing to offer a wet reckless only in cases with either significant mitigating factors or weaknesses in the evidence. Mitigating factors might include things like:
• it being the person’s first DUI
• the person having no criminal record, and
• a low blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
The presence of aggravating factors, on the other hand, ordinarily diminishes your chances of getting a wet reckless plea deal. For example, prosecutors are typically unwilling to reduce DUI charges in cases involving accident and injuries. When there are evidentiary problems, prosecutors start to worry about whether they’ll be able to prove the charges in court. Rather than risk losing at trial, a prosecutor might offer a defendant a favorable plea deal, like a wet reckless. Evidentiary problems come in lots of varieties. But oftentimes, these issues relate to uncertainty about being able to prove the defendant’s BAC. (An understanding of common DUI defenses can give you an idea of when a defendant might have better bargaining power.)
Benefits of a Reckless
Generally, reckless driving carries less severe penalties than a DUI charge. So, a wet reckless plea deal typically means lower fines and less potential jail time than would result from being convicted of a DUI. A wet reckless plea can also have advantages with regard to license related consequences. Many states allow judges to suspend a motorist’s license for reckless driving. But for DUI convictions, license suspension is typically mandatory for six months to a year. And a DUI conviction will generally add more traffic violation demerit points to person’s driving record than will a reckless driving violation. Wet reckless convictions and DUI convictions carry different penalties, but a wet reckless conviction can count as a prior DUI. In some states, someone who has a wet reckless conviction and then is convicted of DUI will be sentenced as a repeat DUI offender Another common way cases are reduced is by attacking the field sobriety exercises that a person is asked to perform on the side of the road. Many times a person does well on these tests, and passes them, but is still arrested for DUI.
In these situations it is important that the attorney looks at the video and highlights how well his client performed to the prosecutor. When realizing that the person performed well on these tests, thereby showing that they were not impaired, rather than going to trial the state agrees to reduce the charge to a reckless driving. These tests are very difficult considering the circumstances you are asked to do them under, and almost impossible to pass for the average person. Therefore, when someone looks good when doing these tests on video, it is very tough for the state to prove that the person was DUI. Since the state has the burden of proof they often reduce the charge to avoid a not guilty verdict in front of a jury.
Furthermore, a conviction for DUI will remain on your driving record for virtually the rest of your life, whereas a conviction for Reckless Driving may not. Furthermore, employers tend to look less favorably upon convictions for DUI than convictions for Reckless Driving. A DUI in Utah carries with it a mandatory adjudication, which means you cannot have your record sealed or expunged, whereas with a reckless driving if the court withholds adjudication you could possibly get your record expunged. Ultimately a Reckless driving looks much better than a DUI and does not carry the stigma or as harsh of a penalty that a DUI would carry. If your first DUI is reduced to Reckless Driving, and you are arrested for DUI a second time, you will still be considered a first time DUI offender. An experienced DUI lawyer will understand the problems with the state’s case and recognize your defenses immediate.
Obtaining this reduced charge will mean that standard DUI conviction penalties will not occur, such as the automatic mandatory suspension of your license for a year, DUI fines, and a more serious black mark on your driving record. In some cases, it may mean that the installation and use of an ignition interlock device will not be required. You will, however, face the consequences of a reckless driving charge which may carry a maximum license suspension of six months, a possible fine of up to $300, suspended jail time, and completion of a Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. The prosecutor will often review the DUI file to decide whether to reduce the charge to reckless driving. The main factor considered by the prosecutor is whether a guilty verdict can be obtained at trial. The more concerned the prosecutor is about a not guilty verdict, the more likely the prosecutor is to reduce the charge. Other factors include:
• The officer noted in the report that the driver was polite and cooperative during the DUI investigation
• Concerns about the Breath Test Reading
• Concerns about the legality of the stop, arrest or detention:
• A question about whether the stop was legal
• A question about whether the stop was unreasonably prolonged
• A question about whether the officer had cause to request field sobriety exercises or probable cause to make the DUI arrest
• Concerns about the Refusal to Submit to Testing
• Reasons for a refusal other than “consciousness of guilt”
• Problems with the reading of implied consent
• Concerns about the defendant’s willingness to go to trial
The real reduction occurs because of the lack of other consequences of a reckless driving plea when compared to a DUI conviction. For instance, if you enter a plea to reckless driving the court can withhold adjudication which allows you to seal the criminal record as soon as probation is completed (assuming that you are otherwise eligible to seal a criminal record). Additionally, no driver’s license suspension is required.
Likewise, in a reckless driving plea under Utah law, the court is not required to impose DUI School, community service hours, a fine, or any of the other requirements that are mandated in a DUI case under law. The criminal offense of reckless driving is often difficult to prove under law, although it can be very valuable in resolving a DUI case so that the client can avoid a DUI conviction. When the prosecutor agrees to reduce a charge of DUI down to reckless driving, it is usually done by designating the reckless driving as an alcohol-related offense. Entering a plea to the reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving after an arrest for DUI is not necessarily in a person’s best interest. In certain cases it may be more advantageous to fight the criminal charges for a reduction to a non-alcohol related offense, an outright dismissal, or a non-guilty verdict at trial.
Many people arrested for DUI are interested in information on alcohol-related reckless driving pleas. With a plea to alcohol related reckless driving the mandatory fines and jail time under DUI sentencing do not apply. However, the Drivers License Division is still notified and an Alcohol Related Reckless Driving conviction is treated the same as a DUI conviction in subsequent convictions for DUI. In other words, if you have a prior Alcohol Related Reckless Driving, and then you commit the crime of DUI, the Alcohol Related Reckless Driving counts as a prior conviction and you are now subject to the increased mandatory jail and fines.
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