If you've been pulled over while driving, arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), and charged, you'll have to make an important decision: Whether to take your case to trial or to accept a plea bargain. This is a serious decision, with pros and cons to both sides. Additionally, every case is different, making your decision truly unique.
How DUI Pleas Work
In between the time you get officially charged for DUI and the time of your trial, your defense attorney and the prosecutor will gather evidence. At some point in this process, the prosecutor can come up with a plea bargain offer – a way for you to avoid trial by pleading guilty to a lesser offense. These offers are far more common in cases that do not involve any aggravating circumstances and when you do not have prior DUI offenses on your record.
Common DUI Plea Bargain Offers
The exact details of the plea bargain you get offered will depend on the exact details of your case. However, years of defending DUI cases have revealed some trends in plea bargain offers for first time offenders who do not have any aggravating factors in their case.
Exhibition of Speed
This is perhaps the most favorable plea bargain offer you can get. By pleading guilty to a misdemeanor offense of exhibition of speed, you will not have an alcohol-related driving offense on your driving record, though 2 points will be added to it. There is also no mandatory license suspension, though the prosecutor might add one in the offer.
This plea offer is typically only an option when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the arrest was 0.08% or lower.
Pleading guilty to a dry reckless offense – driving recklessly, but without alcohol – is similar to pleading guilty to exhibition of speed: It's a misdemeanor with no mandatory license suspension, but with 2 points for your driver's record. It's also rare to be offered a plea deal down to a dry reckless offense, unless your BAC was below 0.08% when you were arrested.
A more common plea deal offer is for alcohol-related reckless driving – the “wet reckless” offense. Pleading guilty to a wet reckless misdemeanor does not come with a mandatory license suspension, but it is treated as a prior DUI offense if you get charged with DUI again in the next 10 years. Insurance companies also see a wet reckless offense as a DUI conviction, so your premiums usually spike after pleading guilty to it.
This plea offer is usually only for first-offense DUI charges that involve BAC levels at 0.08% or very close to it.
Pros and Cons of DUI Pleas
On the one hand, accepting a plea offer for a DUI charge means you don't go through the stress of a trial. It also resolves your charges quickly and transparently.
On the other hand, pleading guilty to a lesser offense means you have a blemish on your driving record and, more importantly, on your criminal record. It's also a guarantee that you will pay the penalties outlined in the plea bargain and eliminates the possibility of an acquittal in court.
Sacramento DUI-Defense Attorney John Campanella
The decision to take your case to trial or accept a plea offer is not a small one, or an easy one. Having an attorney help you decide is crucial.
Call the law office of DUI-defense attorney John Campanella today at (877) DUI-JOHN or contact him online.