The truth is, most Washington state DUI cases don’t got to trial. Most result in DUI plea deals -guilty pleas to reduced charges like reckless driving and negligent driving. Getting the charges reduced is called plea bargaining.
Plea Bargaining Explained
Plea bargaining is the process of negotiating with the prosecutor to reduce the charges and avoid the severe consequences of a Washington State DUI conviction. Plea bargaining is the process we must go through to get DUI plea deals.
DUI plea deals can happen for a number of reasons: the case has legal weaknesses, there are not enough facts to convict, witnesses have credibility problems or aren’t available to testify. Essentially, whenever the prosecutor has doubts about the ability to win at trial, DUI plea deals happen. The prosecutor usually makes an offer to reduce the charge from DUI to a lesser charge. But it is a process that continues throughout the case, from the first pretrial hearing to the day of trial. Once the prosecutor makes an offer, the defense usually issues a counter-offer, seeking to further improve the result. A plea bargain is never as satisfying as the full acquittal of the DUI charges at trial. On the other hand DUI plea deals, once accepted, are a sure thing and they avoids the risk of a Washington State DUI conviction and the severe Washington DUI penalties.
Objectives in Negotiating in a Washington State DUI Case
Advantageous DUI plea deals usually result in the reduction of the charge and avoids a DUI jail sentence, and sometimes a license suspension and high risk insurance. The client’s ultimate goal (identified as early as the first consultation with your attorney) guides the plea bargaining process. For instance, a client whose main objective is to insure that his/her ability to travel to Canada is unimpeded may be served by a slightly different reduction of the charge than a client who has other primary objectives. A good Washington DUI attorney knows the objectives of the client and seeks a result that serves these objectives during plea bargaining and indeed, throughout the representation of the client.
Factors Impacting Plea Bargaining
Factors that affect plea bargaining include:
The facts of your case,
The legal issues of your case,
The reputation and credibility of the officers involved,
The skill and reputation of the DUI defense attorney,
Your criminal history,
Official policies of the prosecutors office,
In some cases, the individual facts of a case have little impact on negotiations. For example, the prosecutors in Seattle Municipal Court and Snohomish County District Court are generally bound by an inflexible office-wide policy regarding DUI negotiations. Outside of your breath test result, no other factors affect negotiations.
Weighing of Options in a DUI Case
The decision to take or reject plea to a lesser charge is made only after very careful consideration. A good attorney will inform you of all the options and risks so that you can make a good decision. At Phillipson & Lundin, expect an informed discussion that weighs the benefits of the proposed reduction against the likelihood of prevailing at trial and the likely consequences if there is a conviction after trial. The ultimate decision whether to accept or reject any DUI plea deals is made by you, our client, after consideration of the best possible information.