What is a DUI plea bargain and how does it work?
A DUI plea bargain is a legal agreement between a defendant, who is charged with DUI, and the state’s prosecuting attorney. Under the plea agreement, the defendant agrees to plead no contest, to enter a guilty plea, or to plea to a less charge. The plea agreement generally allows the defendant to receive a less charge or less severe punishment, but in exchange they forfeit their right to a trial by jury.
Options for DUI plea agreements may include a lesser sentence, probation instead of jail time, a drunk in public charge, an exhibition of speed charge, an open container violation, a wet and reckless charge, a dry reckless charge, or any other applicable traffic violation charge.
Why agree to a plea bargain?
DUI defendants may agree to a plea bargain to eliminate the risk of losing at trial and facing the most severe penalties which can be imposed, or they may have the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge and face less severe penalties and fines.
Whether or not plea bargains are allowed after a DUI conviction will depend on the laws of the state. Some states prohibit the prosecution from offering any plea deals; others do not. Some states which offer plea bargains also impose guidelines the prosecution must follow, assuring that prosecutors throughout the state handle similar cases in a similar fashion.
Additionally, if the state allows plea agreements they generally also give the judge, who is presiding over the DUI case, the authority to reject or accept the plea bargain.
Talk to a DUI lawyer if you have questions about whether there are guidelines in your state. DUI lawyers are most effective when they have reviewed the evidence for your DUI case and can expose weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you, giving them leverage to negotiate the best plea agreement possible.
A DUI lawyer can also determine how long the plea bargain will be available. In some cases, the prosecuting attorney will give the defendant until a certain date to make their decision or until a certain point in the criminal process.
How do I know if I should accept a plea bargain?
Defendants without a strong defense against the DUI charges or those who have been offered a very favorable plea by the prosecutor may decide to accept a plea bargain.
Unfortunately, most defendants cannot make this determination on their own without legal advice from an attorney who has defended other DUI cases. For example, many DUI defendants do not have the knowledge or skills to challenge DUI evidence from a breathalyzer, even if the effectiveness and accuracy of the test could have easily been compromised by the police officer administering the test or by the manufacturer.
Another issue is determining whether the plea bargain is a good offer. DUI lawyers have the authority and skills to negotiate for their clients and understand how to get the best possible offer. Ultimately, however, the only one who can determine whether a plea bargain is acceptable is the defendant.
To get the best plea bargain possible make sure you have a good attorney with a strong reputation for fighting cases and going to court if necessary.
Most prosecuting attorneys like to avoid trial and are willing to negotiate plea agreements, especially if they do not feel they have strong DUI case. Additionally, plea barges can save the state time and money.
Unfortunately, however, some states have passed laws and statutes which require mandatory minimum punishments for DUI charges that cannot be negotiated by prosecuting attorneys or the state. If this is true for your state, plea bargains will not be possible if you are charged with DUI.