Driving to endanger or reckless driving charges can lead to steep fines and leave a blemish on your driving record. In cases where the alternative is an OUI offense, however, reckless driving can be the preferable option. If you are arrested for OUI / DUI in Maine and have a low BrAC (usually .08 to .10), many prosecutors will offer to drop the OUI charge in exchange for a guilty plea to reckless driving. This practice is so common that these types of reckless driving charges have a nickname, ‘wet reckless'.
A 2012 article from the Portland Press Herald explains the Maine OUI conviction statistics in various counties and how often wet reckless charges are allowed. In many counties like Cumberland it is routine to let low BrAC OUI offenders plea down to reckless driving charges but other counties like Penobscot and Hancock counties prosecute all OUI offenders. Other Counties such as York use a different approach:
“York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery said she does not have a set policy about dropping down an OUI charge. Prosecutors consider each case on an individual basis and may weigh factors including the defendant's attitude, the details of the incident and whether there's a substance abuse issue that can be addressed, she said.”
Aside from the obvious unfairness of it all, prosecuting all DUI offenders is a waste of time and taxpayer money. An OUI trial requires use of a court room, court staff, a judge and a jury. In some cases, a public defender will also need to be provided. All of these costs add up and when you take into account the large number of DUI arrests that are made every month and the fact that most are only misdemeanor crimes, you begin to see why prosecuting every OUI violator may not be the best option.
Automatically granting every low BrAC offender with the option of a wet reckless may not be the best course of action either. Instead, an approach similar to York County's should be used where each case is looked at and evaluated based on the offender's criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the arrest. For many drivers, the stress of an OUI arrest is enough punishment to keep them from ever drinking and driving again and, as long as no one was hurt, the entire purpose of OUI sentencing is to discourage the driver from a repeat offense.