The prosecution may offer you a plea bargain after you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in California. Do plea bargains work? Is it a good idea for you to accept one of these deals? In many cases, plea bargains work to resolve your case and reduce the penalties you would otherwise face.
However, not all plea bargains are in your best interests. You should consider all of the pros and cons before accepting a plea bargain.
Basic Information About a Plea Bargain in California
In the simplest terms, a plea bargain is a deal offered by the prosecution. This deal ends your criminal case by requiring you to plead no contest to a lesser criminal charge. A “no contest” plea will appear as a conviction on your criminal record.
Although plea bargains show up on your criminal record, they also lessen the penalties you would otherwise face if convicted. The prosecution may offer you less jail time or lower fines to get you to accept a plea bargain.
Generally, it is recommended that you speak to a DUI lawyer before you accept a plea bargain. Not all plea bargains are fair to you. Call to speak with a law firm about the plea deal you were offered.
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Types of Plea Bargains
There are three main types of plea bargains. Deals you are offered may fall under the category of:
- Charge bargaining
- Sentence bargaining
- Fact bargaining
Charge bargaining is the most common type of plea bargain deal. In charge bargaining, a defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge. For instance, a person could avoid a DUI charge by agreeing to plead guilty to a wet reckless or dry reckless charge instead.
The defendant would not face the potential consequences of a DUI charge but rather the penalties for the lesser charge, to which they plead guilty.
Sentence bargaining is similar to charge bargaining in that the defendant does not face the potential maximum sentencing. However, the difference is that they still plead guilty to the original charge. A person may plead guilty to a DUI charge in exchange for the minimum sentence allowed under that charge.
Fact bargaining is rare. With fact bargaining, a person agrees to admit to certain facts on the condition that others are not submitted into evidence. For instance, a person facing a DUI charge might admit to drinking and driving in exchange for the prosecution omitting that they had children in the car with them at the time of the incident.
Not all jurisdictions allow fact bargaining.
Common Plea Bargains for California DUIs
You might be offered a plea bargain — commonly “wet” reckless charges — after you are arrested for a DUI. A wet reckless charge does not exist outside of a plea bargain. Nobody gets charged with wet reckless initially. This charge is only offered as an alternative to a DUI in a plea bargain.
In order to accept the plea bargain, you plead no contest under California Vehicle Code Section 23103.5. Drivers who accept wet reckless plea deals may face:
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Jail time of up to 90 days
- Summary probation
These penalties might seem high, but let’s compare them to the penalties for a DUI conviction.
Penalties for a DUI Conviction
A first-time DUI may result in thousands of dollars in fines and:
- Jail time of up to six months
- Use of an ignition interlock device (IID) for six months
- Court-ordered DUI classes
- Summary probation
As you can see, a DUI conviction comes with harsher penalties than a wet reckless plea bargain. However, both DUI and wet reckless charges are priorable, which means they remain on your driving record. If you are convicted of another DUI while these charges are on your record, you face increased penalties.
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Other Possible Plea Bargains for a DUI
A DUI lawyer in California may help you secure a different kind of plea bargain after your arrest. In some cases, a lawyer could help you get a plea bargain involving “dry” reckless charges. Dry reckless charges are also called reckless driving charges. They are prosecuted under California Vehicle Code §23103.
Dry reckless charges come with penalties very similar to wet reckless charges. However, wet reckless charges include a note that your offense included the use of alcohol or drugs. Dry reckless charges do not contain this note, and they are not priorable.
Therefore, dry reckless plea bargains are preferable. You should talk to a lawyer to see if a dry reckless deal is right for you.
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Why Prosecutors Offer Plea Bargains
Defendants are often offered plea bargains for a variety of reasons. Prosecutors tend to have incredibly large caseloads, and the quicker a case can be resolved, the better in most situations.
By offering defendants a plea bargain, prosecutors have the potential to “win” their case without having to spend much time on it. As long as they get a conviction on the record, it looks good on their stat sheet.
Additionally, a prosecutor may offer a plea bargain when the evidence against a defendant is weak. A criminal defense lawyer can help identify the reasoning behind a plea deal and advise you on whether you should take the offer, negotiate for a better deal, or fight it out in court.
Other Methods to Resolve DUI Charges in California
You do not have to accept a plea bargain for all DUI offenses in California. A lawyer will investigate your case and recommend different steps to resolve your charges. In many situations, a lawyer can work to block evidence against you.
Blocking evidence may weaken the prosecution’s case. In some situations, this could allow a lawyer to get your charges dropped. You do not face any penalties if California courts dismiss your DUI charges. Once your case gets thrown out, you can move forward with your life.
Your lawyer can also defend you in front of a judge and jury. You could be found not guilty after an accusation of DUI, allowing you to avoid DUI penalties and charges on your criminal record. Learn more with a California law firm.
Find Out if Plea Bargains Work in California
You might wonder if DUI plea bargains are worth it in California. These deals can reduce the penalties you’d face for a DUI. In many cases, lawyers recommend that you accept a plea bargain. You can discuss the exact deal you were offered with the Simmrin Law Group. Allow a DUI lawyer to look over the terms right now. You can get started with a free consultation.
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