DUI Plea Bargains
A skilled DUI attorney knows how to evaluate any driving under the influence (DUI) case. Part of that evaluation involves advising a defendant whether to take a particular case to jury trial or whether to accept a plea bargain.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
The defendant in a plea deal agrees to plead guilty, usually to a lesser charge than one for which the defendant could stand trial (a "wet reckless," for example). Defendants who enter a guilty plea often agree to complete an alcohol diversion program or some kind of community service. For both the government and the defendant, the decision to enter into (or not enter into) a plea bargain may be based on the seriousness of the alleged crime, the strength of the evidence in the case, and the likelihood of a guilty verdict at trial. Plea bargains are actually encouraged in the criminal court system as a whole and have become something of a necessity due to overburdened criminal court calendars and overcrowded jails.
What Is My Incentive to Enter Into a Plea Bargain Agreement?
For a defendant in a criminal case, plea bargaining provides the opportunity for a lighter sentence on a less severe charge, and to have fewer (or less serious) offenses listed on a criminal record. If he or she is represented by private counsel, defendants also save the monetary costs of a lengthy trial by accepting a plea bargain.
What Kind of Plea Bargain Might Be Made?
To illustrate how a plea bargain might be reached in a DUI case: suppose Dan is arrested and charged with DUI. A "plea bargain" might be reached in Dan's case in one of two ways:
1. The prosecuting attorney handling the case approaches Dan and his attorney, and offers to allow Dan to plead guilty to a less serious charge, such as reckless driving or an "open container" violation; OR
2. The evidence against Dan is so strong, and the injuries suffered by Dan's DUI crash victim so serious, that Dan agrees to plead guilty to the original charge of DUI (instead of aggravated DUI), in exchange for a less severe sentence than he would likely receive if a jury found him guilty at trial.
Is There a Time Limit to Accept a Plea Bargain?
At any time prior to trial, a DUI case may be resolved through a plea bargain between the government and the defendant. There are times, however, when the prosecutor can set an expiration date on the plea bargain deal.
Consult an Experienced DUI Attorney
If you or a loved one are arrested for DUI, you may need an experienced DUI lawyer. A skilled attorney who specializes in defending DUI cases will evaluate all the evidence, including the procedure and results of any field sobriety and chemical tests, to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Also, it's important to speak to a lawyer familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. Most offer free consultations, so your first step should be to contact an experienced DUI attorney.