Recently, a Santa Clarita man arrested in February for causing a fatal crash in Canyon Country while driving under the influence returned to court to undergo pretrial proceedings. According to reports, J. Austin was driving through the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Sand Canyon Road when he failed to stop for the red light. Doing so caused a collision between Austin’s truck and a Hyundai in the middle of the intersection, killing the 21-year-old driver, Megan York.
Austin is being charged with one felony count each of gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing injury, and driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08. He is due to return to court on August 8 to continue pretrial proceedings.
Alcohol-related collisions that result in the death of one or more people are always tragic and difficult to hear about – especially because they’re avoidable – and the law comes down hard on drivers who cause them. In Los Angeles County very high bail amounts are set, including mandatory jail time.
However, when driving under the influence doesn’t involve serious injury, death, or property damage, it’s possible for some drivers to “plea down” and receive lighter penalties than those typically associated with a DUI.
One of those pleas is known as a “dry reckless” and occurs when a defendant who is charged with a DUI agrees to plead guilty to reckless driving instead. This plea is advantageous to the defendant because their record will show that they plead guilty to reckless driving, as opposed to a DUI, and no mention that alcohol or drugs will be included on their record. Because of that, a “dry reckless” is not a priorable offense. That means that if the defendant is later charged with another DUI, the fact that they have a “dry reckless” on their record won’t cause them to face harsher penalties the way having a previous DUI would. In California, the more DUIs a person has on the record, the harsher the penalty for each subsequent offense.
As strange as it may seem, a “dry reckless” is preferable to a DUI for several reasons, most of which have to do with the difference in the severity of the penalties involved with each offense. A “dry reckless” typically involves a shorter county jail sentence, smaller fines, a shorter probation period, and no mandatory court-ordered license suspension.
Another possible plea when charged with a DUI is a “wet reckless.” While more serious than a “dry reckless,” a “wet reckless” is still preferable to a straight DUI. With a “wet reckless” plea, the driver still pleads guilty to reckless driving as opposed to DUI, but it’s noted on their record that alcohol or drugs were involved. A “wet reckless” is a priorable offense, just like getting a DUI, so if a person with a “wet reckless” on the record gets a DUI, the penalties will be harsher.
“Dry reckless” pleas aren’t common, and are typically only available when a person’s BAC is close to .08 percent and the prosecution doesn’t have good evidence against the driver. Most prosecutors prefer to offer a plea deal for a “wet reckless” instead, because alcohol was involved and “wet reckless” convictions are priorable offenses.
But who wants any type of DUI charge on their records? The lesson here is to make the right choice first and never drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. You’re taking more than just your life in your hands.