DUI Plea Bargain and a Sentence Reduction
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Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.
Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.
Published on December 29, 2022.
What Is a DUI Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain in a DUI case is a negotiated arrangement between the defendant and the prosecution. When a DUI suspect accepts a plea bargain, they give up their right to fight the case rather than have their case tried in court.
A plea bargain can involve a charge reduction or a sentence reduction. In either case, plea bargains save defendants from the uncertainty of waiting to find out what sort of punishment the judge will impose if they are convicted.
Plea bargains spare the State’s time and resources by not taking a case to trial. An advantage for the defendant is that they might face a less severe sentence.
The possibility of being sentenced to probation and not having to serve any jail time makes a plea bargain attractive to many. However, accepting a plea deal means giving up their constitutional right to confront witnesses and challenge charges.
Although being offered a plea bargain after a DUI may seem like a relief, that is not an offer that should be taken lightly. A DUI lawyer can help you understand your options and the potential consequences of your choices. Obtaining advice from an experienced DUI lawyer would be in your best interest before accepting any deal from the prosecution.
Getting a Plea Bargain for a DUI
Although it can happen at any stage of a DUI case, even in the middle of the trial, plea bargaining typically occurs as the case approaches the court proceedings.
Due to the more lenient penalties offered by plea deals, defendants are often very tempted to accept them without much thought.
Nevertheless, a person may have to plead no contest (nolo contendere) or even plead guilty to driving under the influence in exchange for that reduced sentence. As a result, your criminal record will show that you have been convicted of a crime.
In contrast, a plea deal that involves a charge reduction means the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser charge and be subject to lighter penalties. This is in comparison to a DUI conviction in court.
DUI Charge Reduction
Reckless driving, an exhibition of speed, drunk and disorderly, and even traffic infractions can be among the common DUI plea bargains.
Reckless driving is usually defined as driving a vehicle with a disregard for the safety of other persons or property. It can include weaving, excessive speeding, and failing to yield at a right of way.
While reckless driving is considered a felony in some states, it is usually considered a misdemeanor offense in most. Under Georgia state law, reckless driving is punishable by a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
In addition, the reckless driving charge is considered a charge reduction in DUI cases.
The term “wet reckless” refers to a driver who is driving recklessly due to alcohol. In some states, wet reckless is a conviction that can result in lower fines, potentially no court-ordered driver’s license suspension, and less or no jail time as opposed to a DUI conviction.
However, the driver may still face license suspension as an administrative penalty. It’s also important to mention that wet reckless conviction involves a note in the defendant’s record that alcohol or drugs were involved in the original offense.
In addition, a wet reckless conviction will be counted as a prior offense if the driver is convicted of another drunk driving offense within the state’s look-back period.
Dry reckless is another form of a reckless driving conviction. Unlike wet reckless, a dry reckless conviction doesn’t involve any mention of drugs or alcohol in the offense and will not be considered a prior offense. Although dry reckless is still a misdemeanor offense and can result in added points to the defendant’s driving record, it is considered a good outcome in the DUI case.
Georgia is also among the states that consider having a DUI charge reduced to reckless driving as a good outcome.
How to Handle a DUI Plea Bargain?
It can be hard to decide whether to accept a plea deal in a DUI case or not. Factors that should be considered include whether the prosecution’s case is strong and whether the defendant has a prior conviction.
However, it can be best to consult a knowledgeable DUI lawyer. Whether you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or a Georgia DUI drugs offense, a lawyer can carefully evaluate your case and help you negotiate a lesser charge.
Georgia First Offense DUI Plea Bargain
Even first-time DUI offenses are often prosecuted with a desire for a conviction. Obtaining a plea bargain with a first DUI offense can be easier, assuming no one was injured.
In addition to lesser jail time and fines, plea bargains can mean drivers face less stigma than with a DUI conviction. A decreased impact on insurance premiums and the elimination of mandatory DUI school can also be negotiated as part of a plea bargain.
While some states offer alternative sentencing programs that allow successful participants to dismiss the charges, Georgia does not. First offenders are generally protected by Georgia’s First Offender Act (Georgia Code 42-8-60), but they are not protected when driving drunk or drugged.
2nd DUI Plea Deal
A second DUI in Georgia can include heavy penalties, especially if it occurs within five years. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. You can always hire a defense attorney who can try to suppress evidence and weaken the prosecution’s case.
Second-time offenders can be eligible for a DUI Court, a treatment-based program that offers enhanced supervision, counseling, and treatment to offenders with multiple convictions.
How Can an Attorney Help With a Plea Bargain
An over-the-limit test and a DUI arrest don’t mean that an individual is guilty and that they will be convicted. Every DUI case is different, and possible defenses should be considered depending on the case’s facts and the defendant’s criminal history.
The prosecution and defense both have something to gain from a plea bargain. Both sides will strive to make the plea deal favorable. The prosecution usually offers a plea agreement so that the case can be completed quickly without wasting time and energy. In contrast, a plea agreement is easier for the defendant since it usually involves fewer serious penalties and fines.
Regardless, it is still a decision that shouldn’t be made without consulting with skilled criminal lawyers in Georgia.