Plea Bargaining in DUI and Other Drunk Driving Cases
If you are arrested for a DUI, the prosecutor will likely approach you to make a deal. This means that you will agree to plead in a certain way to a specified offense, and in exchange, you may get certain concessions. Plea bargaining in DUI and other drunk driving cases can be complicated. It is important to consult an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer and be represented throughout this process, since there are a number of pitfalls for defendants who represent themselves.Plea Bargaining in DUI and Other Drunk Driving Cases
Plea bargaining is not as straightforward as you might think. You will not necessarily plead guilty to a felony DUI or misdemeanor DUI and get a lighter sentence. A negotiated plea bargain can take many different forms. For example, one plea bargain might involve pleading guilty to a less serious offense than the one with which you are charged. Another plea bargain could involve the dismissal of a particular charge against you, in exchange for pleading guilty to another charge. In some cases, the plea bargain involves agreeing to a sentence, on the condition that it will not involve a suspended license or a huge fine.
Arizona tends to have some of the harshest DUI laws in the country. There are restrictions on plea bargains in DUIs. Generally, your attorney will need to present a strong defense to get the prosecutor to agree to a guilty or no-contest plea to a lesser charge while staying within what Arizona allows for DUI-related pleas. It may be wiser, however, for us to try to get the charges dismissed altogether through a motion to suppress or by going to trial. It is important to consult an attorney about which strategy would be appropriate in your case. Each case is different.
A criminal defense attorney can approach a prosecutor to make the deal for you. There are a number of reasons not to approach the prosecutor on your own. Among other things, any admission of guilt that you make to the prosecutor could later be used against you. In addition, you may inadvertently let the prosecutor know information that would help them and hurt your defense.
Prosecutors are not required to make deals with defendants or their defense attorneys. However, they are encouraged to pursue these agreements or to offer diversion programs in order to reduce the court docket and conserve resources for trials involving other types of charges. Prosecutors may use intimidation tactics to get you to take a bad deal, or to suggest that their case is stronger than it is. Often, a strong relationship with the prosecutor can help a criminal defense attorney make a favorable deal that another attorney with less experience would not be able to make. The stronger the prosecutor's case against you, the more that you will likely need to compromise on the outcome.
If we reach a verbal agreement with the prosecutor, it is necessary to appear before the judge. A judge need not accept the deal reached by a prosecutor and defense attorney. There are also situations in which a judge tries to change the terms, and in that case, it may be necessary to withdraw the plea and go to trial.
Sometimes, as an alternative to trial for a DUI charge, you are offered not a plea deal but participation in a deferred prosecution program. If you choose to participate in deferred prosecution but do not complete the program, statements that you made in connection with your deferred prosecution agreement can be admissible in a later trial against you. In a drug crime case, for example, the court held that the statements that a defendant made when registering for the program were not considered part of plea discussions. Plea discussions involve negotiations about pleading guilty or no contest in exchange for receiving a concession, while in a deferred prosecution conversation, you are discussing whether you will be in a program that defers or diverts you before a guilty plea or trial. Your charges will be dismissed entirely, but only if you complete the diversion program.Consult an Experienced Phoenix Attorney for Your Drunk Driving Case
You should take DUI charges very seriously. If you were arrested for a DUI, you should consult a tough, experienced lawyer to devise a strong defense strategy. James E. Novak is a former prosecutor who now represents defendants throughout the Phoenix area, including in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and elsewhere in Maricopa County. Contact James Novak at (480) 413-1499 or via our online form.