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PLEA BARGAINIG A DUI CHARGE TO A LESSER CRIME

 

The most recent DMV statistics available indicate that around 85% of those charged with driving under the influence end up getting convicted of that crime. The remainder are either not convicted or convicted of a reduced charge. A reduced charge conviction usually is the result of a plea bargain made with the prosecutor. A defense attorney has the best chances of negotiating a reduced charge to a DUI when one or, better yet, more than one of the following circumstances occur:

  • the evidence supporting the DUI arrest is weak,
  • it is a first-time DUI
  • BAC was tested very close to the threshold limit of 0.08%, and/or
  • the circumstances of the stop or arrest suggest a constitutional violation.

A DUI suspect does not have to accept a plea bargain offer but it is often in his or her best interest to do so when a reduced charge is offered.

The most common reduced charge offered is what is called a “wet reckless” in violation of Vehicle Code section 23103.5. A wet reckless under the statute is a substitute for a DUI, which alleges reckless driving with some alcohol (or drugs) involved. While it is still a misdemeanor charge, it carries lower fines and subjects the offender to less chance of jail time. Unlike a DUI, a wet reckless conviction does not mandate a license suspension and it is possible that as part of the plea negotiations, the offender will not have his or her license suspended by the court. A wet reckless conviction requires far fewer DUI school hours than even a first-time DUI conviction and a wet reckless, unlike a DUI, has no requirement that the offender serve probation. However, a wet reckless does count as a “priorable” DUI offense, meaning that it counts as a DUI on any subsequent DUI convictions the driver receives within the subsequent ten years and it will appear on the offender’s criminal history as a misdemeanor conviction.

While a wet reckless conviction is far preferable to a DUI conviction, in some instances, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate what is called a “dry reckless” under Vehicle Code section 23103. A dry reckless conviction is a misdemeanor but it does not count as a “priorable” DUI offense. Furthermore, a dry reckless conviction does not require that the offender attend DUI classes and does not result in the automatic suspension of the offender’s driver’s license.

As the name implies, a dry reckless is a charge of reckless driving without any allegation of driver involved alcohol or drugs. Negotiating a reduced charge to dry reckless is most often successful when the prosecution’s evidence is weak or when there is a strong chance that the evidence may be successfully suppressed by the DUI suspect’s attorney because the stop or arrest was unlawful.

These two plea bargain options illustrate how important it is to consult a DUI defense attorney before any appearance in court on a DUI. An attorney experienced in defending drivers arrested for driving under the influence can evaluate the circumstances surrounding the stop and arrest and the evidence supporting the DUI charge thereby identifying any available plea bargain strategies. While the alleged offender is not required to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution, it is often the smartest strategy offering the best outcome.

If you or someone you care about has been arrested for driving under the influence, Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg, who has nearly 25 years of experience defending DUIs, can help. Contact him for a consultation free of charge at (949) 474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.