If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) criminal charges will likely be filed against you. You have the right to a jury trial if you are facing criminal charges. However, most criminal cases do not proceed to trial. Rather, they are settled before trial in what is called a "plea bargain" or "plea deal." This is an agreement that is reached either between the Los Angeles City Attorney, Los Angeles County District Attorney, or other prosecutor's office and the defendant. The defendant agrees to plead "guilty" or "no contest" and to give up his/her constitutional right to go to trial, as well as his/her right to confront witnesses and the right to produce evidence on his/her own behalf. In exchange, the prosecutor agrees to dismiss some of the charges (if there are multiple counts), and/or reduce the charge to something less serious, and/or to give the defendant some leniency in the sentencing (such as no jail time or less jail time). The benefit to the defendant is that he/she knows exactly what they are receiving and will avoid the risks associated with going to trial, wherein if they are found guilty by the jury they may receive a much harsher sentence than what they would have in a plea deal.
A good DUI Lawyer will know how to effectively negotiate a favorable plea deal for his clients. What constitutes a good plea deal is determined on a case by case basis based on a number of factors, including the specific facts and strength/weakness of the evidence in the case. If after reviewing the police report, breath and/or blood test records, and all other relevant discovery items, the DUI Lawyer is unable to obtain a dismissal of the case, the next best option (short of winning at trial) in a regular misdemeanor DUI case is to try to get the prosecutor to agree to reduce the DUI charge to a non-alcohol related offense, such as reckless driving ("dry reckless") or exhibition of speed. These are still misdemeanor criminal convictions but are considered much less serious than a DUI conviction. These offenses do not carry the same harsh DMV license penalties that a DUI conviction does nor do they require installation of an ignition interlock device or enrollment in an alcohol program (unless negotiated otherwise with the prosecutor). Also, a conviction for reckless driving or exhibition of speed does not count as a "prior" DUI conviction. Another reduced charge that a good DUI Lawyer may try to negotiate is a plea to a "wet reckless." This is reckless driving involving alcohol, as opposed to the "dry reckless" offense referenced above which does not involve alcohol. A wet reckless also avoids some of the harsher DMV consequences but will count as a "prior" DUI offense. This will impact a person in the future if he/she gets a subsequent DUI conviction.
Plea bargains are also an important tool for the defense in felony DUI cases. For example, a felony DUI with injury charge (Vehicle Code Section 23153) carries punishment of up to 3 years in state prison (plus an additional punishment of up to 6 years if the great bodily injury (GBI) enhancement is pled and proven). A good DUI Lawyer will try to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor with probation. Alternatively, and assuming the facts are bad and the defendant is likely facing a conviction if the case proceeds to trial, a plea bargain that avoids a state prison sentence would be a good outcome.
Each DUI case is unique in its own way. Whether or not a plea bargain is something that should be considered will depend on the facts of that particular case. If you have been arrested and are facing DUI charges CONTACT us today for a free and confidential consultation. Berglund Law Office, P.C. specializes in representing individuals in this situation. Do not delay in contacting a good DUI Lawyer following an arrest for DUI.