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A Guide to Plea Bargaining in DUI Cases – Legal Reader

A plea bargain can help reduce the severe consequences of a DUI case.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense with serious consequences. If convicted of a DUI, you can be significantly fined, have your driving privileges suspended or revoked, or receive a jail sentence. One of the ways to resolve a DUI case is to take a plea bargain.
A plea bargain is a negotiation between the prosecutor and the defense attorney where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge or accept a more lenient sentence in exchange for dismissal or alleviation of the serious charges. Taking a plea bargain could avoid a trial and possibly more severe consequences.
Since a DUI case can lead to grave outcomes, it’d be best to consider hiring an attorney. Find a criminal defense attorney with experience in DUI matters from reputable law firms such as Priest Criminal Defense. They can also advise you on other available legal options and what taking a plea bargain would mean.
Having said that here’s a guide to plea bargaining in DUI cases.
Basics of Plea Bargaining
Plea bargaining isn’t offered in all DUI cases, and several factors must be considered. One of these is that prosecutors and state attorneys are limited by laws and policies in your specific jurisdiction on circumstances where a plea bargain is applicable. For example, most prosecutors would only consider a plea bargain if the evidence is weak.
The DUI charge is often reduced in a plea bargain to any of the following lesser charges:
Reckless driving
Exhibition of speed
Drunk in public
Drinking alcohol in a vehicle
Traffic infractions
A prosecutor can agree to a plea bargain reducing your DUI to any of the above charges if they feel it’s difficult to get a DUI conviction. This can happen if the initial traffic stop by the police was unreasonable, your blood alcohol content (BAC) was below the legal limit when arrested, evidence obtained by the police was through an unlawful search of your car, or a defective breathalyzer was used.
Additionally, a prosecutor may prefer to offer a plea bargain to save time and resources. Trials take time that the prosecution may be unwilling to spend on a DUI case. The same applies when the prosecution assesses your matter and feels you’re unlikely to be found guilty of a DUI infraction.
In contrast, as the defendant, you may also prefer to take a plea bargain for several reasons. For instance, if you want to avoid severe punishment for a DUI arrest and conviction, pleading guilty to a lesser charge or accepting a lesser sentence may be best. Moreover, you’ll save yourself from a trial’s uncertainty and stress.
Factors to Consider Before Accepting a Plea Bargain
There are several factors to consider prior to accepting a plea bargain. These include:
Strength of prosecution case: In most cases, the prosecution would offer you a plea bargain if their case is weak. Consider all the evidence against you, such as the BAC reading. Negotiating a favorable plea might be hard if it’s high. Additionally, if there were many illegalities in your arrest and collection of evidence, such as unlawful searches, you may have the upper hand in negotiating a favorable plea bargain.
Potential consequences of DUI conviction: As mentioned, a DUI arrest and conviction can result in hefty fines, suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, or jail sentencing. If you feel the consequences might be severe, consider a plea bargain to lighten them. You can anticipate the severity of the consequences by researching similar cases and the sentencing.
Prior criminal history: In most cases, the prosecution may hesitate to offer a plea bargain if you have a prior criminal record.
The severity of the offense: The severity of the DUI offense can affect your bargaining power. For instance, if you caused an accident where someone was injured or killed, the prosecution may be unwilling to offer you a plea bargain. In addition, the terms may not favor you if you’re offered one.
Willingness to plead guilty: The prosecutor has to ascertain you’re willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge. You can ask your attorney to request a plea bargain if you feel it’s the best option for your case.
Personal circumstances: A prosecutor may consider your circumstances, including your employment, financial resources, and family situation, when offering a plea bargain. These aspects of your life can help negotiate a reduced sentence or lesser charge. For example, an impeccable employment history that shows you’re a hardworking and outstanding citizen can result in community service instead of a jail sentence.
Many factors must be considered when plea bargaining in a DUI case to ascertain everything is covered and the terms are fair. Your attorney can help you navigate the process and negotiate favorable terms.
Benefits of Plea Bargaining
Consider taking a plea bargain for a DUI case because of the following benefits:
Reduced sentence: Pleading guilty to a lesser charge can help you receive a reduced sentence than one for a DUI conviction. The sentence can be in community service, counseling, reduced jail time or fine, or a shorter suspension time of your driving license.
Lesser charges: A prosecutor can offer you lesser charges in exchange for a guilty plea. In a DUI case, depending on the circumstances of your arrest, the prosecutor may prefer charging you with reckless driving.
Certainty: Agreeing to a plea bargain gives you and the prosecution certainty about the outcomes of the case. This is crucial in eliminating the stress and uncertainty of a DUI trial. Moreover, a plea bargain allows you to negotiate the consequences of your offense.
Efficiency: Plea bargains allow quick and efficient decisions in criminal cases like DUI. Taking one will save time and resources, thus streamlining the criminal justice process.
Avoid DUI conviction stigma: A DUI conviction can have long-term effects on your life, affecting employment opportunities, premium insurance rates, and reputation. Most people and organizations may not want to be associated with you after getting a DUI conviction. Therefore, pleading guilty to a lesser offense can help maintain your social reputation and status.
The circumstances of your case and the attorney’s ability to negotiate the terms determine the benefits you may get from a plea bargain. Therefore, ensure your attorney gets the most favorable terms.

Male lawyer talking to clients; image by Pavel Danilyuk, via Bargain Process
Suppose you find yourself in a DUI case and are considering a plea bargain; here’s a process you can consider:
Hire an attorney: The first step should be hiring a reputable criminal attorney with experience in DUI cases. An attorney can advise you on the legal options available, evaluate the prosecutor’s case, and negotiate the plea bargain terms. This is crucial in getting you a favorable outcome. 
Understand the charges: Ensure you understand your charges and the potential consequences. Your attorney can explain the charges and respond to your questions. Moreover, the attorney can also explain the consequences of taking a plea bargain or opting for a trial.
Collect evidence: Gather evidence that supports your case and can help you negotiate favorable terms. If you’ve hired an attorney, they can collect police reports, witness statements, and documents the prosecution intends to use in your DUI case. You can also carefully narrate the incident that led to your arrest to help the attorney find evidence to strengthen your case.
Negotiate with the prosecutor: Consider letting your attorney handle the negotiations with the prosecutor. They can push for terms that are in your best interest. You may receive reduced charges or a lenient sentence for a guilty plea.
Consider the plea bargain terms: After the negotiations, the prosecutor can offer you a plea bargain. Carefully read all the terms before accepting it. Your attorney can also explain all the terms and the possible penalties once the plea bargain is accepted.
Enter a plea: If you agree with the plea bargain terms, you’ll have to enter a guilty plea or no contest in court. The judge will consider the facts of the charges and the evidence provided by the prosecution before accepting the plea bargain. However, the judge can also reject it after considering all the evidence.
Sentencing: After accepting the plea bargain, the judge can sentence you according to the terms. The sentencing depends on the lesser charges or reduced punishment negotiated, such as community service, fines, or probation.
A plea bargain process can be complicated, and hiring an experienced attorney to help you would be best. Talk to your attorney about the process and the implications of alternative charges. This is crucial in ascertaining the possible outcomes of a guilty plea. For example, what are the potential consequences of pleading for reckless driving compared to a DUI case? This can help you in deciding to start the plea bargaining process.
A plea bargain can help reduce the severe consequences of a DUI case. However, before considering a plea bargain, let your attorney evaluate your case and advise on other legal options. If the evidence against you is weak and the possibility of a DUI conviction is unlikely, it might be best to avoid a plea bargain and decide to fight the charges. Nonetheless, your attorney can advise on the best course of action, depending on your circumstances.

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