Los Angeles DUI Attorney (310) 285-1516
Los Angeles DUI Attorney
(310) 285-1516

Your choice

At some point in time during your DUI case, you are going to have to make a choice; whether you want to:-

  1. Take your case to trial and select a jury to decide your guilt or innocence.
  2. Or work out and accept a plea bargain with the prosecutor.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

This decision does not have to be made immediately and it is usually wise to make your decision after analyzing and assessing all of the evidence in your case and all of the potential consequences to your job, license, and insurance.

Click the "Next" button below to read the next page in this article ...


Choice 1. Going to Jury Trial

Choice 1. Going to Jury Trial

a jury deliberating at your DUI trialIf you decide that you do not want to accept the prosecutor's plea bargain, your other choice is to have a jury trial. Under the law you have the right to have a speedy trial. This means that 45 days after your first court date for a misdemeanor DUI charge you have the right to a jury trial. You can select a jury and have the jury listen to the evidence against you and let them decide if you are guilty or innocent of the charges. (Note if you are in custody in jail, you have the right to a speedy trial after 35 days).

A jury is a group of 12 people selected from the community to decide your guilt or innocence. If they find you not guilty on all charges your criminal record will remain clean.

Advantages

The advantages of going to trial are if you win, then :-

  • You do not have a DUI on your record
  • You get your license back (especially important if you have a commercial license)
  • You avoid all potential DUI punishment - no DUI fine, no alcohol class, no probation, etc.
  • You probably avoid increased insurance rates.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of trial are that :-

  • It can be time consuming, expensive, and stressful
  • There is no guarantee what punishment you will receive from the judge if you lose.

Time, Stress and Costs

Trials move very slowly. DUI trials usually take anywhere from 3 to 7 days so you need to take time off to conduct them. DUI Lawyers usually charge more for trials and often times you need an expert witness to testify on your behalf and the expert can cost you more or less $1,000 to testify, so trials take time and usually cost more. (See other DUI Costs).

In addition, trials can be stressful because you just don't know which way the jury is going to decide, and if the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, then you face the added stress of not knowing what punishment you face from the judge who is ultimately going to sentence you.

Sometimes Jury Trial is the only way

So trials are usually investments in time and money with no guarantees; so you have to weigh the risks versus the benefits in making that decision. However, remember it is your constitutional right to have a jury trial, and sometimes it is the only way to fight the charges, and sometimes fighting the charges by a jury trial can really pay off. If you are facing losing your job or other serious consequences from a DUI like losing your commercial license or your license for a year then a jury trial might be the better option than a plea bargain so you can try and save your job, license, etc.


Choice 2: Work out & accept a Plea Bargain with the Prosecutor

Choice 2: Work out & accept a Plea Bargain with the Prosecutor

The Prosecutor offers a Plea Bargain

the prosecutor determines the plea bargain in your DMV hearingThe prosecutor determines the plea bargain offered to you. The prosecutor is the government lawyer who takes over your case from the police officer after you were arrested for DUI / drunk driving. A plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecutor in which you plead guilty or no contest to an agreed upon charge with an agreed upon punishment.

When you first go to court the prosecutor will have read the police report written about your DUI arrest. This report usually gives the officer's reason for pulling you over, his opinion of your objective symptoms (eyes, speech, breath, etc.), his opinion of your performance on the Field Sobriety Tests, and your results on the Breath Machine or Blood Test. Many times these police reports are biased and inaccurate.

breathalyzer device for measuring driver alcohol levels from the breathThe most important things in the eyes of the prosecutor are your blood alcohol levels as shown by your breath or blood tests and whether this is your first, second or third DUI within the last 10 years. The prosecutor also looks for DUI aggravating circumstances such as if you were involved in an accident, if your blood alcohol was over .20, if there were children under 14 in the car, if you are on probation for an earlier DUI, or if you refused to take a breath or blood test. If any of these aggravating circumstances apply you possibly face increased punishment from the prosecutor and possibly jail time.

The prosecutor will write down a plea bargain offer. Usually the offer is predictable if there are no aggravating circumstances (see Next page for typical plea bargains).


Typical DUI Plea Bargains

Typical DUI Plea Bargains

What you face in Court from the Prosecutor & Judge

Below are typical plea bargains you can expect to have offered to you in court by the prosecutor. These are plea bargains for cases that do NOT have any aggravating circumstances. Cases with aggravating circumstances face greater punishment from the prosecutor.

First Time DUI

If you are arrested for a DUI for the first time in your life or it has been over 10 years since your last DUI and your Breath or Blood results are .11 and higher you will probably be offered the following first time DUI plea bargain in court from the prosecutor.

NOTE - On a first time DUI, you do not face any jail time unless there is an aggravating circumstance in your case. Some lawyers will try and scare you by telling you that you face jail on a first time DUI - this is not true unless there exists an aggravating circumstance. If you have DUI aggravating circumstances the following plea bargains might not apply as you might face greater punishment from the prosecutor.

First Time DUI - PLEA BARGAIN
Usually 3 years of summary probation, approximately $1,800 in fines, and a 3 month alcohol program. Normally you also face a 6 month suspension of your license from the California DMV but after one month of suspension you can obtain a restricted license for work for the remaining 5 months.
Second Time DUI - PLEA BARGAIN
Usually 3-5 years summary probation, minimum of $1,800 in fines, an 18 month alcohol program, 96 hours in jail, and a 1 year license suspension with no possibility of a restricted license during that year.
Third Time DUI - PLEA BARGAIN
Usually 5 years of summary probation, minimum of 120 days in jail, minimum $1,800 fine, 3 year license revocation, and 18 month alcohol program.
Fourth DUI within 10 years
You face felony charges and possible state prison time.
Wet Reckless
When your Blood Alcohol levels are close to .08, and if your driving and Field Sobriety Tests are not bad, the prosecutor might offer a plea bargain that is called a wet reckless. A wet reckless is the name for the Vehicle Code (VC) Section 23103 per VC 23013.5 charge of reckless driving involving alcohol. A wet reckless is really a kinder, gentler DUI, a watered down DUI if you will. It is a prior on your record, which means if you get another DUI in the next 10 years it is considered your second DUI. A wet reckless usually means a little less in fines, probation, alcohol program, and no court suspension on your license. The problems with a wet reckless are it's essentially a DUI on your record and insurance companies usually treat it as a DUI.
Dry Reckless / Speed Ex:
If your Breath Results were .06, .07 or .08 then you really want to fight the DUI charges and try and get the plea bargain of a Dry Reckless (Reckless Driving not involving alcohol) or Exhibition of Speeding (Speed Ex). These charges are not alcohol related and do not hang over your head for 10 years like a DUI and wet reckless do.

Advantages of Plea Bargains

  • Plea Bargains are your alternative if you do not want go to trial.
  • Plea bargaining takes less of your time.
  • You know what you face with a plea bargain.

Disadvantages of Plea Bargains

A DUI plea bargain means :-

  • you will now have a crime on your record
  • you will have to pay a fine and do an alcohol class
  • you will have 2 points on your license record
  • you face increased insurance rates
  • and possible exclusion from traveling to Canada.

See also which court you have to go to and learn how the 'personality' of the each courthouse in Los Angeles can affect your DUI case.


If you are UNDER 21 and you were arrested for DUI

If you are UNDER 21 and you were arrested for DUI

under 21 drinking and driving

Zero Tolerance Laws

California has zero tolerance laws for people who are under 21 and drive with any alcohol in their system - if you took a breath test or blood test and your BAC was .01 or more you face a one year license suspension from the DMV.

You must call the DMV within 10 days

The court and DMV will attempt to suspend your license for one year. Even when you are under 21 you are still allowed to have a DMV hearing and a stay so make sure you call the DMV within 10 days to request a hearing and a stay to fight your suspension.

Critical Need Restricted License

Under the Zero tolerance law, however you can still apply to the court and the DMV for a critical need restricted license which would allow you to drive to school and to work only. Your chances of getting a critical need license from the DMV usually depend on whether public transit is inadequate and if you are helping support your family with your job.

See also:

Los Angeles DUI Attorney

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