In the criminal justice system, plea bargains are used extensively for
different reasons. Due to Southern California’s large population,
the Los Angeles and Orange County courts are overloaded with criminal
cases. Local judges encourage prosecutors to weed out the less serious
cases, so there can be more room for the serious violent and fraud-related felonies.
One of the ways that prosecutors (with the judges’ support) try to
reduce the heavy burden on court calendars is to push defense attorneys
and defendants to accept plea bargains or plea deals, and driving under
the influence is no exception.
With a plea bargain, the
DUI defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge. Or, if the defendant is facing
multiple charges, he or she may agree to plead guilty to less counts.
In exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea, he or she receives
lower fines and a lighter sentence. Many view plea bargains as “win-win”
Should you accept a plea bargain?
As an Orange County DUI defense firm, we do not have a blanket response
to the plea bargain question. Every case is different, so the correct
answer depends on the facts of the case. If you are innocent of your charges
then by all means, you should fight your charges.
Let’s say it’s your fourth DUI offense in 10 years, and these
are the facts of your case:
blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was barely .08%,
- Your four-year-old son was in the backseat during the arrest,
- You had an open bottle of beer in the car,
- You were texting while driving,
- You crashed your car into a light pole,
- You were also under the influence of Xanax, and
- You were speeding 20 mph above the speed limit.
In the above scenario, you have several “aggravating factors”
counting against you, which could lead to additional charges, such as
having an open container of alcohol,
child endangerment, and texting while driving. Depending on the evidence, it
may be worth fighting your case, but a plea bargain may also be a favorable
option if you can eliminate a few of the charges.
What if the evidence is questionable?
Sometimes a DUI defendant made a mistake, but the evidence is weak. Perhaps
the arresting officer engaged in police misconduct, or perhaps there was
no probable cause to initiate the traffic stop. Perhaps the lab mishandled the
blood test and the evidence was compromised, or perhaps the
breathalyzer was not properly calibrated.
When we discover errors in a case or when there is insufficient evidence
to prove that a client is guilty, then a plea bargain may not be the best
route to take. Instead, it may be better to challenge the prosecution’s
evidence and get the case dismissed.
So, what about you? Should you accept or deny a plea bargain in your DUI
case? It all depends on the charges, the facts of the case, your desires,
and what would be in your best interests.
As a DUI defendant, it’s important to understand the ramifications
of each alternative and to be flexible about your options because it all
comes down to
which defense strategy would benefit you the most.
Looking for an Orange County
DUI defense lawyer?
Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to schedule a free case evaluation with the