Most drivers who are facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge don’t end up going to trial. Going to trial may give you a shot at getting your charge dropped, but you should only do so if you know you have a good chance of winning. This can lead many people to consider pleading guilty to DUI—often through a plea deal offered by the prosecution.
You might wonder if you need a lawyer at all if you plan to plead guilty to DUI. The answer is usually, “yes.” It’s still a good idea to contact a lawyer in your DUI case to ensure you are making the best decision and not getting taken advantage of by the prosecution.
An experienced DUI lawyer can examine all the details of your DUI case and help you make the smartest decision—whether that means pleading guilty or no contest (where you admit the facts but not guilt) or fighting the charge.
Entering a Guilty or Not Guilty Plea for DUI
The first time you are in court after a DUI arrest is during the arraignment. During the arraignment, a judge will usually ask if you want a lawyer. You have the option to receive a court-appointed lawyer or hire your own.
If you already have an attorney on your side during the arraignment, you can enter your plea there. Otherwise, you will need to come back once you have an attorney to represent you.
Either way, it’s usually not advantageous to plead guilty on the first court date. The prosecution may offer you a plea bargain soon after your arrest, but it’s typically unwise to take the first offer because it’s probably not a good deal for you. It’s best to plead “not guilty” during the arraignment and have a lawyer on your side as you do so. Then, if you still accept a plea deal later, you have a better chance of getting a better deal.
Do You Need a Lawyer if You Plead Guilty for DUI?
Whether you ultimately take a plea bargain or end up going to trial, it’s best to have a lawyer representing you either way. If you plead “not guilty” during the first court appearance, your lawyer will use the extra time to look over the prosecution’s evidence and develop a plan for your case. Even if you and your lawyer plan to eventually accept a plea deal, the additional time after the first guilty plea is often worth it.
Your lawyer can research the facts of your DUI case and look for holes in the prosecution’s side. Then, they can work on building possible defenses to help your outcome. Prosecutors are often handling several DUI cases at once, and they welcome a chance to settle a case rather than going to trial. A DUI lawyer can help you use this fact to your advantage.
What It Means to Plead Guilty for DUI
During the second or third court date, many defendants end up pleading “guilty” or “no contest.” If you do this, you will receive a conviction, so you will need to discuss this decision carefully with your lawyer. A DUI is usually a misdemeanor criminal charge unless you have several prior DUI charges.
Plea Bargain for a DUI
The prosecution may offer you a plea bargain during any stage of your DUI case—even during a trial—but it’s most common towards the beginning of the case. Plea bargaining may be offered to you as a way to possibly reduce your penalties and avoid going to trial.
Although a plea bargain can be advantageous to you, it still means you are pleading guilty to a charge. You are agreeing that you may be sentenced by a judge in court, and the judge will ultimately decide how to hand out your penalties.
This is why having a lawyer is so important. They have the legal expertise to know when a plea bargain is actually worth it—and they will know whether it’s worth fighting a DUI charge or negotiating for a better deal. If your lawyer finds inconsistencies or loopholes in the prosecution’s case, they may be able to get a much better deal for you.
Fighting a Charge Versus Pleading Guilty
Whether or not fighting a charge is worth it depends on how strong the prosecution’s evidence is against you. Your lawyer will help you make an informed decision based on the details of your case.
For example, if you had a lot of alcohol in your system (around 0.12% blood alcohol concentration or higher) during your arrest or you were in an accident that caused injuries, your best option might be negotiating a plea bargain versus trying to fight the charge.
On the other hand, if the evidence against you is more questionable, such as a blood alcohol concentration that is closer to 0.08%—your lawyer may be able to make you look more favorable to the jury. Some forms of “proving” impairment, like a field sobriety test (FST), can have other explanations besides intoxication. Your lawyer will explore all of these considerations.
How Your Lawyer Handles a Guilty or No Contest Plea
If you decide to plead “guilty” or “no contest” to a DUI, your lawyer will need to go over the consequences of this decision with you. You should clearly understand what you are pleading guilty to and the penalties you will face, as well as the benefits of pleading this way.
An experienced lawyer will not advise pleading guilty to a DUI lightly. They will make sure all other avenues are explored and all evidence is investigated so that any decision you make is ultimately the best for you.
Talk to a DUI Lawyer for Free
If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, Simmrin Law can help. The first consultation is FREE. To schedule your FREE consultation today, call us at 310-340-0302 or contact us online now.