Most DUI cases result in what is called a plea bargain. This is a deal made between the prosecutor and the defense attorney that the defendant will plead guilty or no contest to the DUI or a lesser charge and be sentenced to a penalty agreed to between the parties. The percentage of DUI cases that go to trial vary by county, but in some it is lower than 2%.
Why Do So Few Cases Go To Trial?
Unfortunately, many attorneys do not like the extra effort involved in preparing a case for trial. They may not have the experience necessary to feel confident in the courtroom or they may not think DUI cases are worth their time when it comes to trial.
This is not fair to the client and it may deprive them from the chance of getting a not guilty verdict. On the other hand, many DUI cases are good candidates for a plea bargain because the offer may be good enough that the client does not see a value in the risk/reward of a trial vs. a known outcome.
Why Would One Accept A Plea Bargain?
For many cases, a plea bargain is the best option. It allows the defense to negotiate either a lower charge, a lower amount of punishment, or both.
While an experienced attorney can work hard to defend clients accused of DUI at trial, there is still a chance that the defendant can be found guilty by the jury and be sentenced to a larger amount of punishment than she would have been if she accepted the plea offer.
In most cases, if you take the case to trial and lose, the judge can impose the maximum penalty. Sometimes, the evidence against a defendant is very strong, so a trial may not be a good use of the defendant's time or resources.
Likewise, sometimes the prosecution has a weak case and therefore will be open to accepting a reduced charge to avoid going to trial. Even in cases where it seems like the evidence is stacked against the defendant, however, there are still defenses available and ways that a skilled attorney can fight for the best option available.
Will I be forced to take a plea bargain?
A person charged with a DUI always has the right to choose whether to go to trial or accept a plea bargain. While an attorney can advise their client or recommend a course of action, it is ultimately the defendant's choice.
In nearly every case, a plea bargain will be offered. An attorney will review the offer and discuss the pros and cons of accepting it versus going to trial. A skilled attorney obtains the best offer possible and communicates it to the client, who can always refuse it.
Is It A Good Idea To Go To Trial For A DUI Case?
The circumstances for every trial are different and there is no way to guarantee the outcome. But, some cases absolutely can result in a not guilty verdict and should be taken to trial if the defendant can tolerate the risk and cost.
Many clients assume that since they were pulled over, took field sobriety tests, or gave a blood or alcohol sample, that there is no way they could be found not guilty at trial.
This is simply not true. Police officers and the prosecution want you to believe that your situation is hopeless, but it is not. There are many ways a defendant can be successful at trial, and there are defenses available for every case.
Additionally, each case at trial will be heard by 12 members of a jury – there is always a chance that a good defense attorney can convince at least one of them of the defendant's innocence. Without 12 guilty votes, the prosecution cannot obtain a conviction at trial.
How Can I Decide Whether To Go To Trial Or Accept A Plea Deal?
Every case is different, and the facts of the case will help to determine whether the defendant should accept a plea or go to trial.
The first step toward making the decision is hiring an excellent attorney who is familiar with the area of DUI law and can advise the defendant of the benefits and drawbacks of either path.
Ideally, an attorney can work to get the case dismissed before it proceeds to trial. If not, the attorney will work with the prosecution to collect all the evidence against the defendant and use it to negotiate the best offer.
Once the offer is reviewed, an attorney can help the defendant to decide whether it is in their best interest to accept it or if it would be better to go to trial.
The process of collecting evidence and setting a date to discuss a plea or go to trial can take months, so there will be plenty of time to discuss the situation with an attorney and decide which option is best.
Contact Beahm Law Today
At Beahm Law, we have had victories, even when it seemed impossible. Getting arrested for a DUI is stressful enough. If you are in this situation, you should not spend extra time worrying about how to proceed with your case, let us do that for you.
Contact Beahm Law today by calling 415-493-8677 or contact us online to set up a one-on-one consultation.