What Are The Different Plea Options With A Standard DUI Case?
In my office, we would always start with the promise that we would try to win any case we got, meaning we would try to make it go away. If at some point we were not able to do that, then we would go for “Plea Bargaining,” meaning we would negotiate with the DA’s office to try and get the charges against our client reduced to a lesser offense. The client would have the option of going to a jury trial if the DA’s office would not lower the charges to something that the client was willing to take.
The first plea we would enter would usually be at the arraignment, and that would be a plea of not guilty. Pleading not guilty would not hurt in any way. A lot of people ask me whether the judge would hold it against them if they had plead not guilty in the beginning, but the answer to that is no, they would not. This is how we start almost every case, and we would need to do this to be able to have a chance at winning the case. We would not be able to win the case if we did not fight it, so we would enter a plea of not guilty.
At the arraignment, the person could also plead guilty if they wanted to, but that is something we would not advise. They could also enter a plea like “not guilty by reason of insanity,” but we would not typically have to deal with this plea because a regular first DUI would be something that involved a drink or two over the legal limit.
There are different levels of DUI offenses in plea bargaining. There are DUIs with injuries and there could be DUIs without injuries. There could also be reduced DUI charges. There could be something call the “Wet Reckless” and then there is also something call the “Dry Reckless.” The wet reckless would involve alcohol related reckless driving, whereas the dry reckless would be non-alcohol related reckless driving.
We would plea bargain over time and I would be trying to win every case I was fighting, so I would need to take a case from the beginning and look at it as if it might go to a jury trial and then prepare it, and from the beginning, I would need to look at the different defenses and get prepared just in case that was something that may happen.
Most DUI cases do not go to jury trial, but the attorney would still need to prepare for that to happen. We would do our investigation just in case that happened but also if things came up that could help us convince the prosecution to either drop or reduce charges. We would need to get records on the machines that were used and we would need to get records on blood testing. We would need to get video, audio, statements, talk to witnesses if they exist, and sometimes we would even need to get cars checked out.
Sometimes we might even have to view the scenes where field sobriety tests were given so that we could look at lighting conditions and other things such as weather conditions. These things could go into helping us with plea bargaining. At first we would only have a police report by the district attorney’s office which states why the person was pulled over, what the police officer observed about our client, and the results of any chemical tests, blood or breath. We need to find more than that and would do our investigation to give us more information to help us in plea bargaining.
Other things that could help with plea bargaining, especially in cases where it was a more serious or multiple offense or where the client clearly had a major drinking problem and it was clear from the report, we would get our clients to do an outpatient treatment or residential treatment program. That could help get the DA to back off on the charges or the penalty. There are a lot of different things we could do to help our clients.
What Is The Timeline For A Typical DUI Case Resolution From The Time Someone Is Arrested Until Sentencing?
The shortest case we ever had was resolved within about two months, because we like investigating every case and would never want to sacrifice the result for speed of resolution. Every once in a while, a client would have a situation where they needed their case taken care of quickly for some travel reason or whatever and sometimes we would finish them quickly because the prosecution would have missed prior records or convictions and we would not want to give them the opportunity to look at the case any closer.
In most cases, it would take at least a couple of months, with the average being probably 3 to 6 months. I have handled many cases that have gone on for longer than that, and some cases have gone on for a year or two. It would be hard to judge something as being typical, but the typical length of the case would usually be around 3 to 6 months and that would usually mean an arraignment sometimes a few weeks or a few months after the arrest and then going back to court for a settlement conference or a pretrial conference and then maybe more conferences.
A lot of things go on and all these things take time, especially if we were running a suppression motion, so the case would usually take at least 5 or 6 months if not a lot more.
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