DUI: PLEA BARGAINS
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Most DUI charges are either dismissed or admitted, to some degree, after a negotiated settlement with the district attorney. To what degree the prosecution is willing to deal depends upon the facts and evidence of the DUI case. A DUI case proceeds to trial in only about 3% of all DUI cases. Whether or not a DUI case proceeds to trial depends largely on the facts of the DUI case and the disposition of the defendant (Sometimes a defendant cannot accept a DUI charge due to professional licensing issues or immigration issues, etc.)
Felony DUIs carry much greater penalties; therefore, the "negotiated deal" for felony DUIs usually include greater penalties than they would for misdemeanor DUIs. Some felony DUIs cannot plea bargained pursuant to law.
Sometimes a negotiated DUI plea will include a reduction of the DUI charges; this is known as a negotiated "charge reduction.". In other cases, the negotiated plea might focus on a penalty reduction but keep the DUI charge itself in place; this is known as a negotiated "sentence reduction."
Whether a DUI charge is negotiated to reduced charge or a lighter DUI sentence depends largely on the facts of the DUI case and the disposition of the defendant.
The following represents common "reduced charges" associated with DUI charges:
1) Wet Reckless:
A California "wet reckless" is generally the first level of a DUI reduction offered by the prosecution. The "wet" in "wet reckless implies that the defendant was involved in an alcohol (or even drug) related driving offense, but that the drugs or alcohol did not necessarily influence the defendant's driving. This is sometimes offered where the defendant's BAC results were relatively low.
The maximum penalty for a Wet Reckless is 90 days in jail. Therefore, if a defendant violates his or her probation after a plea to a Wet Reckless the defendant cannot be made to serve more than 90 days in jail. Furthermore, the actual probationary period for a "wet reckless" is shorter (1-2 years instead of 3-5 years for a DUI).
Moreover, Wet-Reckless convictions are not cumulative; therefore, there is no enhanced penalty for subsequent DUI charges. Also, the "wet reckless" fines and the number of "DUI classes" are generally less than those required for DUI convictions.
Additionally, the "wet reckless" plea does not trigger an automatic license suspension (The DMV may suspend the defendant's license if the defendant loses the DMV hearing, but the suspension is not automatic as it is with a DUI conviction). Finally, the "wet reckless" plea has less impact on any professional licensing status.
Of course, the "wet reckless" plea does have its drawbacks: insurance companies and the DMV treat a "wet reckless" plea as a plea to a DUI. Also, a "wet reckless" is treated as a prior where a subsequent DUI is charged.
Further, A "wet reckless" plea is not appropriate or even available in every case. It is important that the defendant understands the availability and limitations of this plea offer. Remember, the facts and evidence is different in every case.
A DUI Attorney will explain the benefits and drawbacks of this popular plea to DUI.
2) Dry Reckless (V.C. 23103):
A "dry reckless" is a misdemeanor reckless driving: driving with a reckless disregard for people or property.
With a "dry reckless" there is no implication of an alcohol related driving offense. Like the "wet reckless" plea discussed above, the "dry reckless" provides for shorter jail sentence (maximum 90 days in jail as opposed to a maximum of 6 months in jail for a first DUI); smaller fines (as low as $145); shorter probationary period; and less negative impact on professional licensing.
However, the "dry reckless" is preferred to the "wet reckless" because there is no mandatory license suspension (although it does add 2 points to your driving record).
Furthermore, there is no mandatory DUI school required when pleading to a "dry reckless." Most importantly, a "dry reckless" is not considered a "prior" offense. This means that if a defendant gets a subsequent DUI it will still be considered a first DUI.
The prosecution does not like to deal in the "dry reckless" arena. This is mostly due to the fact that the plea is not considered a "prior." However, the District Attorney will deal for a "dry reckless" where the DUI case is weak against the defendant (low BAC or other problems with the prosecution's case).
Like the "wet reckless" above, the "dry reckless" is not appropriate in every case. Only after a review of the facts and evidence can it be determined if this plea is available.
A DUI Attorney may properly evaluate the strength of the prosecutor's case in order to determine whether the "dry reckless" is a good plea to a DUI charge.
3) Drunk in Public P.C. 647(f):
Drunk in public is a separate crime from DUI that can be charged when it is difficult to prove whether or not the defendant was driving under the influence.
The crime is complete when a person is so intoxicated in a "public place" that he or she is a "danger to themselves or to others."
Sometimes the prosecutor will offer a plea to "drunk in public" charge where the facts or evidence are too weak to support a conviction of DUI. None of the DUI sentencing penalties apply to this charge (because no driving is involved).
Thus, generally there is no impact on professional licensing; no driving license suspension; no DUI classes; no mandatory minimum jail sentence; no "prior" offense impact; no impact on insurance rates; etc.
The "drunk in public" charge is still a misdemeanor. Therefore, it could have an impact on probation for the defendant (if the defendant was on probation at the time of the new DUI charge).
An offer from the prosecution to plead to "drunk in public" in lieu of the DUI charge is not likely to happen unless the evidence is too weak to prove that the defendant was driving a vehicle at the time of intoxication.
4) Reduced Sentence:
As part of a plea, the prosecution might not want to offer a plea to a "lesser" crime, such as the one listed in 1-3 above. Instead, the prosecution might want to keep the DUI charge the same and bargain for a shorter sentence. This is known as "sentence pleading."
Basically, with sentence pleading, the prosecution is saying "I won't drop the charge, but if you plea to the charge I will recommend a lighter sentence to the judge." This is a very common offer by the prosecution.
It is important to discuss the ramifications of "sentence pleading" with a San Bernardino DUI attorney before a plea is entered. A “no time” offer is not always the best deal for the defendant. Many factors must be considered before this offer is taken seriously.
The prosecutors know that most people are very scared of going to jail (even for a day). The prosecutors use this fear to psychologically force a defendant into accepting an offer that is not necessarily in the defendant's best interest, such as where the defendant will suffer immigration consequences or professional licensing consequences as a result of the plea to the DUI, as opposed to a plea to a lesser offense.
5) Other Traffic Infractions:
Sometime the prosecution will dismiss the DUI charge but revise their charges to charge the defendant with a traffic infraction. This might happen where the evidence of DUI is very weak but there is some evidence of an underlying traffic infraction.
It is important to speak with a DUI criminal defense attorney at the earlier possible outset of a DUI charge. DUI attorney Christopher Dorado represents defendants charged with DUI in the county of San Bernardino, including the cities of Redlands, Colton, Rialto,Yucaipa, Rancho Cucamonga, Victorville, Ontario, Fontana, and more. Call today for a free DUI case evaluation.