Whether to accept or reject a plea bargain offer is a decision that must be made during the life of most cases. Our decision, as the defense, on whether or not to accept a particular offer is always made against how harsh the punishment could be if we lose a jury trial.
The prosecutors are trying to offer us, as the defense, just enough incentive to take a plea bargain, so that we don’t use the county’s resources for trial. But they don’t want to make too good an offer, for their own statistics, and to avoid criticism that they are being “too soft”, or “not tough enough” on drunk drivers.
Sometimes my clients decide to risk the certainty of a plea bargain by having a jury trial. Most times, although not always, the plea bargain is more attractive than risking a trial. We often put cases on the jury trial calendar in order to pressure the prosecutors into offering us better plea bargains. Sometimes this works, and sometimes the prosecutors still won’t budge.
Judges know, and prosecutors know, that there are not enough resources to try every case. The justice system would grind to a halt and not be able to handle anything but trials very quickly. For that reason, the judges, and both parties, encourage the drafting of plea bargains in DUI cases in Orange County and elsewhere.
A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecution to resolve the case without a trial. The result can be a dismissal, or it can be a specific punishment with a conviction (jail, probation, alcohol classes or other punishment). For a DUI, the range of potential punishment includes probation plus the minimum fines and fees (which total about 2,000), and an alcohol school, up to the maximum of a fine of over $5000 plus six months of jail, plus the alcohol school. Whether to accept or reject a plea bargain offer depends on how the plea bargain offer weighs up against the potential punishment at trial.
If you have questions about a plea bargain, contact our firm anytime. We are happy to help.