Pleas, Negotiations, And Settlements: Navigating The Pretrial Phase Of A DUI Charge
After a DUI charge, the pretrial phase occurs when the prosecution and defense meet to try to come to a resolution and avoid a trial. This article explores…
- What the pretrial phase is and the different resolutions that can be reached,
- The factors that influence a settlement, the consequences of accepting or refusing a plea deal, and
- The role of the prosecutor and DUI defense attorney in the pretrial negotiation process.
What Is Pretrial Resolution In A DUI Case?
If you have been pulled over, tested, and charged with Driving Under The Influence, there is still time to determine what exactly will happen. In most circumstances, this will ultimately include a meeting between the prosecution and your DUI defense attorney to discuss the case and possible non-trial resolutions.
In fact, in California, most DUI cases are resolved before going to trial, with an outcome negotiated based on the relative strength or weakness of a case and the costs associated with going to trial. Thus the pretrial phase, including both examining your case and negotiating with the prosecution, is potentially even more important than any trial.
Typically, district attorneys will have a “standard offer” that they convey when there are no aggravating or mitigating circumstances. When there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the offers conveyed will typically get worse if there are aggravating circumstances or include a reduction if there are mitigating circumstances.
What Factors Are Considered When Negotiating A Pretrial Plea Deal Or Settlement For Your DUI?
When negotiating a settlement in a DUI case, a qualified DUI defense attorney will look at several factors in determining the strength or the weakness of your case. The answers to each of the following questions are just some of the elements that can either improve or reduce your chances of a favorable outcome:
- Was there a sufficient basis to initiate a traffic stop or otherwise detain you?
- How reliable was the reported blood alcohol concentration?
- Was the blood or breath sample properly collected?
- Do you have any prior arrests or DUI convictions?
- How well did you perform on the field sobriety test?
Not every factor is related to the arrest or details of the charges and evidence. Your situation can also impact the severity of different convictions. For example, certain outcomes in DUI cases may affect either your immigration or employment situation. These, and more, thus always need to be addressed when discussing pretrial settlements.
Finally, of course, if there is any potential for charges to be reduced to a non-DUI offense, then that is an opportunity any experienced DUI defense attorney would gladly help you seize.
What Are The Potential Consequences Of Accepting A Pretrial DUI Plea Deal Or Settlement?
A plea happens when you agree to plead guilty or no contest to one or more charges to avoid a possible worse outcome after an expensive trial. There are always both direct and indirect consequences of a DUI case plea.
You will almost certainly have to deal with the following consequences:
- There will be a conviction on your record.
- You will have to complete a DUI school of 3, 6, 9, or 18 months in duration depending on blood alcohol levels and any priors.
- A suspension or restriction of driving privileges.
- Probation for up to three years, with the potential for a jail sentence.
As previously mentioned, however, not all consequences are the direct result of the judicial decision or plea. Indirect consequences, which might include impacts on your immigration status or employment options, can sometimes be even more important than the above factors when choosing how to resolve your case.
How Can A Defense Attorney Negotiate A Favorable DUI Plea Deal Or Settlement?
With the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney, however, you may be able to reduce or bypass some of the above consequences through negotiation. To effectively negotiate a settlement in a DUI case, your defense attorney needs to have a command of the law as well as the facts of the case.
Thus your defense attorney will need to conduct a complete investigation before discussing a resolution. This investigation could include
- Obtaining maintenance and calibration records for any blood or breath testing devices used.
- Obtaining and reviewing video evidence including body-camera footage and surveillance footage.
- Interviewing witnesses and consulting with expert witnesses like a forensic toxicologist.
- Reviewing reports prepared by law enforcement.
If your attorney has a strong command of the facts of the case, including the strengths and weaknesses and potential collateral consequences, they will be able to negotiate the most favorable settlement possible for you.
What Is The Role Of The Prosecutor In Negotiating A DUI Plea Deal Or Settlement?
The prosecutor is tasked with looking at the facts of the case and working toward achieving a just result. If the defense attorney has a good rapport with the prosecutor or at least a neutral level of respect, they can work together to come to a favorable resolution for all.
What Are The Potential Consequences Of Going To Trial For Your DUI Instead Of Negotiating?
If you are unable to reach a resolution that involves a reduction of charges or that mitigates collateral consequences, the risk of going to trial for a first-offense DUI charge should not differ significantly from what was offered by the prosecutor pretrial.
Often, however, the additional costs associated with going to trial are the primary deterrent. Altogether the attorney’s fees, costs to retain an expert, and time spent in trial and away from work and family can be significant enough to accept even an unfavorable plea.
The only significant impact going to trial will have on the ultimate sentence occurs if you are convicted, and the court believes you lied when you testified. In these cases, more severe punishments may be imposed.
For a case involving a prior conviction, however, or one involving other aggravating factors such as an accident, or excessively high blood alcohol levels, a pretrial resolution may result in a more favorable outcome than if you went to trial and lost.
Regardless of whether you wish to resolve your case in the pretrial phase, or take it to trial, you will need an experienced and specialized DUI defense lawyer.