Making a DUI Plea Deal: 8 Things Every Driver Should Know

Facing a drunk driving conviction? Make the right deal and don't get bullied.

It's a near-certainty that anyone arrested for a DUI will be approached by a prosecutor to make a deal --  that is to plead in a certain manner to a certain offense, in return for some concessions. You probably know it as plea bargaining. Here are 8 things you should know about the plea bargain process.

1. There are many types of deals

Plea deals aren't simply a matter of pleading guilty and getting a lesser sentence. They can come in many shapes and forms and often give the parties the freedom to negotiate an arrangement that satisfies everyone. Here are three ways that they are commonly shaped: (1) pleading guilty to a less-serious offense than you are charged with, (2) dismissal of one charge against you, in exchange for a guilty plea to another, or (3) agreeing to a  sentence that will not involve a high fine or license suspension.

2. You can do the deal anywhere and any time

Your lawyer or you (if you’re representing yourself) can approach the prosecutor at any point in the proceedings to make a deal. These discussions can be formal (you can even do it by phone) or sometimes the negotiations are mandated and formal – for example, “pretrial” or “settlement” conference in the judge’s chambers.

3. Remember: It’s a compromise

The prosecutor does not have to make a deal. Typically, the prosecutor is motivated by a desire to save court expenses and keep the court calendar free for other cases. But don’t go into negotiations with a Donald Trump attitude that it’s a winner take-all situation. You must compromise and the stronger the case against you, the more of a compromise you often must make. If you are represented by an attorney, the attorney should be able to guide you in the art of balancing your desires against the prosecutor’s position.

4. On the other hand … don’t give it all up

Although it’s true you must compromise (see above), there’s no need to be bullied by a prosecutor into accepting a weak “take it or forget it” plea deal. If the prosecutor is playing the “intimidation” card, you should reconsider your options and consider saying “No.” A lawyer’s advice can help you through these more difficult negotiations.

5. Bad Strategy #1: Never show all your cards

Don’t be lulled into “laying everything on the table” – that is, explaining your strategy for fighting the citation to the prosecutor. If you don’t make a deal, the prosecutor will be hip to your defense.

6. Bad Strategy #2: Don’t say the “G” word

Don’t ever admit guilt during your negotiation with a prosecutor or police official before a deal is formalized. If you do, your admission can be used against you in court. For example, let’s say you talk to a prosecutor who says, “Off the record, you had a six-pack, right?” Never reply, “Sure, but I think that’s not enough for a DUI.” If you fail to make a deal, the prosecutor can simply go on the stand and testify to what you said. Far better to respond, “I don’t think you can prove that” and very briefly explain why. (But again, don’t reveal the details of your defense strategy.)

7. Never make a deal on trial day until you see the officer

If the police officer isn’t present, the judge will probably dismiss the case. Knowing that the officer isn’t going to make it, the prosecutor may propose a generous settlement immediately before court. Before going further, you should just ask the prosecutor if the officer is going to be present. Or, you could ask for a few minutes to think about any deal and, if the cop still hasn’t appeared, just say no.

8. Make sure the deal gets formalized

Once you and the prosecutor reach a verbal agreement, you both must appear before the judge where the prosecutor will explain the arrangement. The judge doesn’t have to accept the deal but usually does. If things don’t go as planned and the judge seems to be dictating different terms, ask to withdraw your plea and proceed to trial.

Additional Information

The links below provide more information surrounding the DUI case.

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