Can You Get DUI Charges Dropped?

Avoiding a criminal conviction after being arrested for driving under the influence.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

Most people who get arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) would ideally like to avoid being convicted. A DUI conviction generally leads to severe consequences (that might include license suspension, jail time, and fines) and can affect your employment and educational opportunities.

However, the probability of getting a DUI charge dropped depends on the specific circumstances of your case. In most cases, a complete dismissal of a DUI charge isn't going to happen. But there are often ways of eliminating or minimizing some of the consequences of a DUI.

Plea Negotiations With the Prosecution

Most DUI cases are resolved through the plea-bargaining process. Plea bargaining typically involves the defendant agreeing to plead guilty to a DUI charge in exchange for less severe penalties than could result otherwise.

In some cases, negotiations with the prosecutor could result in dismissal of a DUI charge altogether. But the chances of this happening are generally slim. Sometimes police will arrest a person for a DUI and the prosecutor decides there's insufficient evidence to pursue charges. But once prosecutors decide there is enough evidence and file a DUI charge, it can be tricky to convince them to change their minds.

However, the likelihood of getting a DUI charge dropped is probably better in cases that involve significant mitigating factors. For example, factors like:

In cases where there are lots of mitigating circumstances, the defense might also be able to plea bargain for a reckless driving charge (sometimes called a "wet reckless") instead of the DUI. But, of course, every case is different. So, it's difficult to predict what circumstances might convince a prosecutor to drop a DUI charge or agree to a less serious charge in any given case.

Ways of Avoiding a Criminal Conviction

For many people, one of the most troubling issues with a DUI is having a criminal conviction on their record. Some states have programs—typically, for first offenders—that allow DUI offenders to avoid a DUI criminal conviction if they abide by certain conditions. These programs might be referred to as "DUI diversion," "DUI court," or some other name. But they generally require the participants to complete some sort of drug and alcohol education or treatment and agree to drug or alcohol testing for a period of time. For participates who successfully complete their program, the court dismissed the DUI charge—meaning, there's no criminal conviction.

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