A plea of not guilty must be entered at your arraignment which is typically your first court date after bonding out of jail. A plea of guilty can be entered at any time prior to trial and will end your case. So, you are technically maintaining your not guilty plea until you either change your plea to guilty or let a jury decide your fate.
Discovery in your case includes all the evidence such as reports, videos, test results, and witness statements. By law, discovery does not have to be turned over until 10 days prior to trial. In reality, discovery is turned over as it becomes available in order to help facilitate a resolution of the case. It typically takes 1-2 court appearances to start seeing a clear picture of the evidence and potential options for resolution. You will not have to make a decision without understanding all of your options.
There are some instances where some but not all of the evidence has come in, but the prosecutor is looking to move some cases quickly to alleviate a backlog (aka “covid”). In those situations, the prosecutor may make a favorable offer to resolve the case that day without further delay. I relay that offer to my client and discuss the affect that the remaining evidence may play in the case. If we agree that the evidence will be harmful to the case at trial, then we have a discussion about taking the offer. If we believe the remaining evidence will be helpful, then we have a discussion about whether we want to reject the plea offer and take the case to trial. It is ultimately up to the client and typically based on their honest assessment of their impairment. I never want a client to feel like they have to make a particular decision. In reality, there’s always going to be pros and cons to every possible outcome, and I’m happy as long as the client makes the final decision. I will be there to guide the client through the decision and discuss potential consequences on their work or school, driver’s license, and any other collateral consequences to entering the plea.
If a client does not want to take the final plea offer, then the case will proceed to trial. Typically, several months or years after the arrest. Ultimately, the client decides when and if to change their plea to guilty based on the facts of the case and my advice about potential outcomes.
Absolutely. You will always be given a plea offer in your case. Whether or not it is a good plea offer or “deal” will depend entirely on the facts and potential legal issues with your case. The prosecution will typically dismiss one or more charges in exchange for your plea to other charges. The terms of your plea will vary depending on your criminal history and the seriousness of the pending charge. A high BAC, accident, and prior DUIs all contribute towards stiffer penalties. Typically, the biggest question will be whether you can get the prosecution to agree to dismiss the DUI charge in exchange for a plea to a reduced charge such as reckless driving. You can increase your chances of a favorable plea offer by being proactive and doing some mitigation such as completing DUI School, a drug and alcohol evaluation and some community service. These are all optional but can gain favor with the prosecution as a show of understanding of the seriousness of the allegations (but not an admission of guilt).
The biggest driving factors for a reduction to reckless driving are your appearance on video, the results of any chemical tests, and any legal issues that could result in the suppression of key pieces of evidence. Along those same lines, it is much easier to get a less safe DUI dismissed than a per se DUI because a per se DUI is easier to prove than a less safe DUI. A less safe DUI requires the prosecution to prove that you were impaired to the extent you were an unsafe driver. Whereas a per se DUI just requires that they introduce the results of the chemical test showing you were over the legal limit of 0.08. Per se charges are not indefensible, they just require a more intricate defense and prosecutors like their chances of a guilty verdict if the case goes to trial.
All of these factors determine your likelihood of beating the case at trial. If the prosecution believes that you have a close case in which the jury could come back in either direction, you are much more likely to get an offer to plea to reduced charges. On the other hand, there is only so much a prosecutor will bend before deciding to just take their chances with trial. So you must be ready to go to trial when you reject a plea offer. Sometimes the plea will get better. Sometimes it won’t. So you have to always consider your likelihood of beating the charges at trial when reviewing a plea offer.
As mentioned briefly above, the other consideration is mitigation which can be proactive things you have done as well as just a portfolio of your life to show the court that this charge does not define who you are. Mitigation could be character witnesses saying what a good person you are, you are a pillar of the community, you provide for your family. It could be your work history or that you are a full-time student with good grades. You just want to be able to show the judge that you are making the most of your life and deserve a second chance. You don’t want to bring your kids in for pity from the court, but the court should definitely be made aware of your family situation. Any criminal conviction can impact more than just you. It can impact the entire family, especially if you’re the sole breadwinner or the sole caregiver. Putting you in jail or taking away your license affects your ability to get to work and take the kids where they need to go. That type of mitigation can be helpful in getting the charge reduced, but it will certainly not be a basis of a reduction by itself. The court is very familiar with these arguments and will also ask why you didn’t think about your family, job etc. before making the decision to drink and drive. So you have to figure out how to present mitigation in a way that still accepts responsibility for your actions while informing the court of all the reasons you should receive a lesser sentence or lesser charge.
For more information on DUI Laws In Georgia, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (470) 729-9050 today.