Should you plea bargain your DUI? Deciding whether to settle your DUI case in a plea bargain, or whether to go to trial on a DUI charge, can be stressful. As an Orange County DUI attorney, I often have a full discussion with clients on the pros and cons of each option. The client has the final say whether to settle a case or go to trial. However, they cannot make an informed decision on which option to choose unless we discuss the positives and negatives of each option. That takes asking and answering questions with my clients to make sure they understand the legal advice I provide prior to deciding on their DUI case. Read on to learn more if you should plea bargain your DUI case or when it is better to go to trial.
Plea Bargain in DUI Cases
In most cases, the prosecutor, or district attorney will make an initial plea bargain offer for what they believe the case should be plea bargained for, based upon three things:
- The prosecution’s policy, given certain parameters (the blood alcohol level, whether kids were in the car during the DUI arrest, whether there is an accident or a prior, for example);
- The version of the events relayed by the police, the Orange County crime lab machine testing results, and any witnesses; and
- The mandatory minimums and maximums for the specific crime(s) charged.
With any plea bargain offer, or any offer to settle a DUI case, my client’s choices usually come down to three options. Those are, broadly speaking, as follows:
- Accept a plea bargain, thus ending the case for a specific negotiated sentence;
- Reject a plea bargain, and thus take the case to trial; or
- Make a counter offer.
All other options are just variations on these three main options. So, when should you invoke each one? Should you accept or reject a plea deal in your DUI?
Part of our job as a law firm, if you retain any one of us as your DUI defense lawyer, we will do the following:
- Discuss your goals and possible legal options with you
- Relay and discuss your desired outcome with the prosecutor
- Report and discuss the prosecutor’s plea offer along with any options and potential consequences with you
- Give you a recommendation, and explain all reasons for the recommendation; and
- Report your acceptance or rejection of a plea offer to the prosecutor and judge.
We will advise you as to whether accepting or rejecting an offer will be in your best interest, as I believe strongly that you are entitled to our opinion in addition to just reciting what the offer is. I will discuss the likely consequences of acceptance or rejection of a offer. We will answer the question, Should you Plea Bargain your DUI? Attorneys are legally obligated to provide their clients with honest, candid advice, and to protect the best interests of the client. The ultimate decision on how to proceed will be up to you, and you should make it with as much information as possible.
When would you want to accept a plea bargain offer, option one above?
Should you Plea Bargain your DUI? You would want to accept a plea bargain offer if the case exposure is significantly lower than what you might be looking at, if you went to trial. In a recent DUI case that our firm handled, the Los Angeles City Prosecutor, looking at the good driving and low blood alcohol level, offered an infraction speeding ticket in exchange for dismissing all DUI charges.
In another very recent case our firm handled in Riverside County, the DA, facing a motion to dismiss, offered an infraction drunk in public in exchange for dismissing the DUI charges.
In each of those cases, since an infraction does not leave a criminal record, or trigger a DMV suspension, the choice was clear. Even though the client was pleading “guilty” to another charge, the effect on them, when weighed against the risk of trial, made the decision clear.
When would you want your DUI case to go to trial (option two above)?
The simple reason a case goes to trial is that there is not a reasonable plea bargain offer in your case, and you think your case, based upon the facts of the case, or the legal defenses, could give you a better result with a trial. In some cases, even if you are found guilty, you may have a better sentence than the last offer you received. Or, all DUI charges could be dismissed with a motion at trial or a finding of not guilty.
When would you want to make a counter offer?
If the prosecutor says that specific information might help, or be considered, then it is worth it to gather that evidence and make a push for a counter offer that is lower than the last offer. That information might include character reference letters, or specific mitigation evidence, or may have a legal defense, like someone that witnessed someone else driving, or someone that is certain that the alcohol consumption in the case took place after the fact.
Should you Plea Bargain your DUI? Deciding which option to take.
Statistically, most Orange County DUI cases settle with a plea bargain. By some statistics, over 90% of the cases in California end up not going to trial. Settlement offers are favored by everyone – the prosecution, the judge, and the defense, as they limit the time spent on the case, as well as the risk for both the prosecution and defense.
With a plea bargain, you know exactly what you are going to get. At trial, you don’t know ahead of time what 12 jurors will decide, or what rulings the judge would make, or what sentence, if you are found guilty, you will get (at trial, all plea bargain offers are withdrawn).
In certain situations, as your attorney, I may not agree with your final choice. But, I must promise to carry out your wishes, and will carry out your desired choice as long as it doesn’t violate ethics.
Orange County DUI Trials
For cases and clients that make the decision to go to trial, after discussions about all options and potential consequences, cases can be sent to trial anywhere in Orange County. DUI Defendants are found not guilty at trial. Sometimes just being prepared and ready for trial, might trigger a better offer. Although I cannot accurately predict whether you will be convicted or found not guilty at trial, I have had substantial trial experience and can give you my opinion about the strength of the prosecution’s case and whether you have a strong defense.
You may seek to forgo trial to avoid the risk of an uncertain outcome as well as increased punishment. Remember, as your attorney, I will not make the final decision to go to trial. Going to trial will always be entirely up to you.
However, as your advocate, I will do everything I can to make sure you can make an informed decision. Hire an Orange County DUI trial attorney who will provide you with the quality information you need in deciding to go to trial or accept a plea deal.
Contact Our Orange County DUI Attorneys
I invite you to contact our law office to discuss your DUI case in detail as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of your case, it may be in your best interest to accept a plea bargain or go to trial. We are here to help you either way.