Some drivers accused of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are offered plea bargains by prosecutors, especially when the case as charged seems particularly difficult to prove in court. Although sometimes it’s better to take a case to trial, in other cases, a carefully negotiated plea bargain is in the driver’s best interests. An experienced California DUI criminal defense attorney will be able to broker a plea agreement with negotiated penalties that are the best deal for the driver.
Accused drunk-drivers who accept plea bargains still face court punishment, but the penalties can be greatly reduced when the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge. In some cases, the prosecutor may be willing to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor, which is a favorable outcome for the defendant.
Most first, second, and third DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, provided the driver was not involved in an accident and no-one was hurt. For a first-time DUI in California, the minimum sentence a court may impose is 36 months of informal probation, approximately $1,500 in fines and penalties, participation in a 12-week alcohol education program, a 90-day restricted driver’s license imposed by the court, and six months suspended driver’s license imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Factors that will increase this mandatory minimum sentence include refusal to take a chemical test, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20 percent or greater, driving 20 miles per hour above the speed limit on side streets or 30 mph over the speed limit on the freeway, driving recklessly while under the influence, drunk-driving with a minor in the car, and cases involving a traffic accident.
Drivers who have previous DUIs during the past 10 years, and drivers under the age of 21 also face additional sanctions.
A driver with a second DUI within 10 years faces 10 days in county jail, and an 18- month alcohol education program. In addition, the DMV will suspend the driver’s license for two years. The defendant will be eligible for a restricted driver’s license after one year.
A third-time drunk-driving defendant will be sentenced to 120 days in county jail and a three-year driver’s license suspension. The defendant will be eligible for a restricted license after two years.
Felony DUI pleas include jail time, fines, license suspension and mandatory alcohol education classes. A felony driver involved in an accident must pay restitution to the victims, the amount of which to be determined at a hearing.
A driver charged with a felony because of a fourth DUI within 10 years faces 180 days in jail, an 18- month alcohol program, and a four-year driver’s license suspension, with the possibility of a restricted license after three years. The plea also will include fines and probation.
Although these penalties may seem harsh, sometimes a plea agreement with negotiated minimum penalties is a far better choice for a DUI driver than taking chances with a jury trial. A qualified lawyer who specializes in drunk-driving defense will determine whether a plea bargain with a negotiated minimum penalty is in the driver’s best interests.
WET RECKLESS PLEA
One of the most pressing questions in any DUI case is whether to take the case to trial. Sometimes it’s better to let a jury decide a drinking and driving case, but some drivers charged with drunk-driving may want to consider a plea bargain when offered. An experienced California DUI lawyer can evaluate each case to determine whether pleading guilty to a reduced charge is in the driver’s best interests, and negotiate the best possible deal.
Plea bargains are negotiated settlements between a prosecutor and a drunk-driving defendant’s attorney. Prosecutors typically offer a plea agreement when the case against a driver isn’t particularly strong, and there is a chance the prosecution won’t win in court. As the term plea bargain implies, the deal has to be a bargain for both sides. With a plea bargain, the prosecutor saves the taxpayers the cost of taking the case to trial. The driver pleads guilty to either DUI with negotiated consequences, or a reduced charge.
One such charge is alcohol-related reckless driving, also known as wet reckless. In many ways, a wet reckless is similar to a DUI charge if a driver is arrested again for drunk-driving within 10 years, the wet reckless charge counts as a prior drinking and driving conviction. Also, most insurance companies view wet reckless the same as a DUI, and the driver faces increased premiums.
However, a wet reckless plea is better than a drunk-driving conviction in many respects. The charge carries no mandatory alcohol education classes, and no driver’s license suspensions and no SR-22 filing required if the driver has a successful DMV hearing. The wet-reckless plea is also a good option for individuals with professional licensing concerns, such as doctors, psychiatrists, and real-estate agents.
Wet reckless pleas are most likely to be offered when the defendants chemical test showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 percent or less. A wet reckless is a misdemeanor charge, and carries less severe court punishment than a DUI conviction.
Sometimes a plea bargain is a favorable outcome for a DUI defendant, and sometimes it isn’t. A lawyer who specializes in drunk driving defense can determine whether a plea agreement is fair and appropriate, and can advise whether pleading guilty to a wet reckless is the best course of action.
DRY RECKLESS PLEA
Sometimes the defendant in a DUI case has the option of accepting a plea bargain. While sometimes it’s in the driver’s best interests to take the case to trial, in other instances he or she may want to consider pleading guilty to a reduced charge instead. A lawyer experienced in defending drunk-driving cases can determine whether a plea agreement is the best possible outcome in a DUI case.
One possible plea agreement in a drunk driving case is to plead guilty to reckless driving unrelated to alcohol, also known as a dry reckless. There are many benefits to pleading guilty to this reduced charge, and, if it is offered, there is little question about whether it should be accepted.
A plea bargain is supposed to be just what the name implies a bargain for both sides. The prosecutor saves the time and trouble of taking the case to trial. The defendant receives some consideration for admitting guilt early usually a reduced charge or diminished consequences.
The dry reckless charge is the best of both worlds. Unlike a DUI or wet reckless charge, dry reckless generally carries only probation and a much smaller fine than in a drunk-driving case. There is no mandatory driver’s license suspension and no requirement to file a formal proof of insurance, or SR-22, if the driver is successful at a DMV hearing. However, the court may require the driver to attend alcohol education classes, depending on the circumstances of the case.
A dry reckless plea also differs from a DUI or wet-reckless charge in that it does not count as a prior conviction if the driver is again arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving within 10 years of the previous arrest.
Dry reckless plea bargains are most often put forth when the drivers blood alcohol content (BAC) hovers just around the legal limit of 0.08 percent. As with wet reckless and DUI convictions, dry reckless is a misdemeanor, however, it carries far fewer penalties than more serious drunk-driving charges.
Deciding whether to accept a plea of dry reckless, or any other reduced charge is a serious decision. A qualified DUI criminal defense attorney can help negotiate the best possible plea agreement, and determine whether its acceptance is in the best interests of the driver.
EXHIBITION OF SPEED
One of the most important decisions to make as a drunk-driving defendant is whether to accept a plea bargain if it is offered. While sometimes it’s better to take a case to trial, a plea agreement with diminished consequences or a reduced charge is sometimes in the client’s best interests. An experienced California DUI defense lawyer will determine whether a plea bargain is the best course of action.
One of the best plea deals that can be made in a drunk-driving case is to plead guilty to exhibition of speed. This reduced charge is typically offered only when the prosecutor’s case is particularly weak. Exhibition of speed is a low-level misdemeanor charge that carries substantially less serious penalties than DUI, wet reckless, or dry reckless charges.
Unlike more serious charges related to drinking and driving, an exhibition of speed plea will not count as a prior conviction if the driver faces another DUI within the next 10 years. It carries no automatic driver’s license suspension or SR-22 filing requirement unless the driver is unsuccessful at a DMV hearing.
Exhibition of speed is typically offered as a reduced charge when the drivers blood alcohol content (BAC) is equal to or lower than the legal limit of .08 percent. A driver who pleads guilty to exhibition of speed usually must pay only a fine. The driver does not have to attend alcohol education classes, although he
or she may have to agree to some educational requirement.
There is little debate that an exhibition of speed conviction is preferable to a drunk-driving charge. An attorney who specializes in drunk-driving defense may be able to broker a plea bargain that includes this reduced charge.
Prosecutors handling DUI cases are sometimes willing to allow an accused drunk-driver make a plea bargain, or plead guilty to a lesser charge. In some cases, a skilled California drunk-driving criminal defense attorney can persuade a prosecutor to reduce the charge to a mere traffic infraction.
Pleading guilty to a traffic infraction, such as speeding or an unsafe lane change, is an indisputably favorable outcome for an accused DUI driver. Pleading guilty to an infraction leaves the driver with a clean criminal record. The driver must only pay a fine and receive a point on his or her driving record. There’s even a possibility that the point can be removed by attending traffic school.
Prosecutors typically offer to reduce a drunk-driving charge to a traffic infraction only if the case is not likely to win at trial. The prosecutor may realize how weak the case is after an adept DUI lawyer points out a fatal flaw in the conduct of the arresting officer, the drivers chemical test, or another piece of evidence.
A plea bargain that reduces a drinking and driving charge to a traffic infraction is usually only available in cases where the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) hovers near the legal limit of .08 percent. Other factors include the circumstances of the arrest, the jurisdiction where the charges are brought, and whether or not the driver has a prior conviction for drunk-driving during the past 10 years.
Sometimes drunk-driving charges can be reduced to infractions that leave the driver with a clean criminal record and few repercussions. A lawyer who specializes in DUI defense will evaluate each case to determine whether a negotiation to a traffic infraction or other reduced charge can be achieved.