Most people would happily avoid the risk of trial if given a good plea offer. Of course, what constitutes a good plea offer will vary from case to case, and the plea offer must be considered in light of the possibility of success at trial. Sometimes a good offer is a reduction to reckless driving and sometimes a good offer is DUI plea without jail time. Every case is different so there is no specific mathematical formula we can apply. Instead, I will share some of the factors that assist in getting more favorable plea offers.
First, you hope to have strong facts that indicate sobriety. Good balance and coordination on video always help. Ideally, you want either no chemical test (i.e., a refusal) or a low BAC. The higher the BAC, the less likely you are to get a reduction to reckless driving. Outside of general indicators of sobriety, it also helps to be polite and respectful with the officer.
Second, if you have bad facts, then you try to get those bad facts excluded from evidence. You do so by filing motions to suppress alleging the evidence was illegally obtained. If granted, then the prosecutor cannot use that evidence against you. If denied, then that evidence is admissible. If the prosecutor cannot use their key piece of evidence against you, then their case becomes much weaker. Sometimes, the prosecutor will make a compromise offer prior to the hearing on the motion to suppress. In that scenario, we all realize that the case could go either way at that point, and the prosecutor makes an offer to avoid the uncertainty and resolve the case with a reckless driving plea. If you reject that plea offer, then you are staking your fate on the outcome of the motions hearing. If you win, then you will likely get an even better plea offer. If you lose, then you will certainly get a worse plea offer. Of course, if you are set on going to trial anyway, then you are not concerned about the plea offer getting worse. However, if you are not planning to take your case to trial, then you need to be very careful not to overplay your hand here as you could let the best plea offer slip through your fingers.
Mitigation is the third factor that assists with pre-trial negotiations, and it is helpful no matter what you plan to do with your case. Mitigation could mean you are proactively addressing any underlying substance abuse issues or completing standard sentence requirements such as community service and DUI School. Being proactive is not an admission of guilt. You can acknowledge the potential dangers of DUI without acknowledging guilt. When you are charged with a crime, the only potential outcome is guilty or not guilty. Therefore, you do not need to concern yourself with guilt or innocence, just whether you will plead guilty or be found guilty of a criminal offense. By being proactive, you show the judge that you have learned your lesson about the dangers of this incident and have taken steps to avoid it happening in the future. Mitigation could also mean you are gathering character letters from your friends and family to show the judge that this DUI does not define you. You could also gather background info for your attorney so they have a better understanding of the impact a conviction may have on you and can convey that impact to the judge and prosecutor.
The final thing would be external influences, but you cannot count on these influences as they may not exist in your case. An example would be when the officer does not show up for the administrative license hearing. You hope it happens, but there is no guarantee. Maybe the officer has quit, transferred out of state, or has disciplinary issues. I always pull the officer’s record and see if there have been any previous issues. Obviously, lying would affect their credibility overall, so that would be helpful. Additionally, the jurisdiction, judge and prosecutor all play a role in what a favorable resolution looks like in your case. Some counties customarily waive the jail time on a first DUI while others customarily require at least 24 hours. Ultimately, you will have to understand how likely your case is to win at trial before deciding on whether to plea. If you have a strong case, then it is much easier to reject the plea offer.
For more information on DUI Law in Georgia, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you seek by calling (470) 728-1725 today.