A motorist facing a drunk driving charge has an important decision to make – whether to take the case to trial or accept a plea bargain. There are sometimes good reasons to take a case to court, but there can also be compelling reasons to accept a plea bargain. An experienced DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney can help an accused drunk driver decide the best course of action in each individual case.
Depending on the case, considering a plea bargain may be a reasonable alternative to a jury trial. Plea bargains are a good option when the prosecution has a particularly solid case and the chances of prevailing at trial are slim.
One option in a drunk driving case is to plead guilty, or no contest, to DUI with negotiated consequences. In some cases, a prosecutor may be willing to reduce the DUI from a felony to a misdemeanor, which is almost always a victory for the client. A savvy drunk driving defense lawyer may also be able to negotiate the consequences, which means he or she will work out a punishment that creates the least amount of disruption in a client’s life.
Another option is to plead guilty to alcohol-related reckless driving, also called a wet-reckless charge. The benefits of a wet-reckless charge are that there are no mandatory license restrictions or alcohol education classes required. An SR-22, or formal proof of insurance, won’t be required unless a driver’s DMV hearing is unsuccessful. There may also be benefits for those who have professional licensing issues, such as doctors, psychologists, and real-estate agents. However, pleading guilty to a wet-reckless charge means that if the driver is arrested on another DUI charge within 10 years, the conviction will count as a prior offense, meaning enhanced punishment. Also, insurance companies view wet-reckless as the same as a DUI conviction, which likely means higher premiums.
An even better option is to plead guilty to reckless driving not involving alcohol, also known as dry-reckless. A dry-reckless conviction is better than a DUI conviction in every way and experienced California DUI / DWI attorneys will almost always advise an accused drunk driver to accept this deal if it is offered. A dry-reckless conviction typically carries only a fine and probation, although the court may order the driver to attend alcohol-education classes. A dry-reckless conviction is not priorable, meaning it doesn’t count as a prior DUI conviction if an individual is arrested again for drunk driving within 10 years. Also, a dry-reckless plea doesn’t require an SR-22 if the driver is successful at a DMV hearing.
Sometimes a prosecutor offers a plea of exhibition of speed when the DUI case is particularly weak. Like a dry-reckless plea, an offer to reduce a drunk driving charge to exhibition of speed is a bargain in the true sense of the word. A driver who pleads guilty to exhibition of speed usually only must pay a fine, although alcohol education classes may also be required. It can’t be counted as a prior offense in a future drunk driving arrest, and no SR-22 filing is required if the driver wins his or her DMV hearing.
Having a DUI / DWI charge reduced to a mere traffic infraction, such as speeding or unsafe lane change, is sometimes possible. Obviously, this is the best possible outcome. The driver need only pay a fine, and may even be able to attend traffic school to remove the citation from his or her record. There is no requirement for an SR-22 or alcohol education courses, and the driver walks away without a criminal record.
Because plea bargains are complex negotiations, any individual facing a drinking and driving charge is well-advised to seek the counsel of a skilled DUI / DWI criminal defense lawyer. An attorney who specializes in drunk driving defense may be able to negotiate a plea bargain to a lesser charge, and broker more favorable consequences for a driver facing a DUI charge.