DUI Plea Bargains

When someone is arrested and charged with DUI, there are a limited number of ways for a case to conclude:

 

  • The prosecutor may dismiss the case based on inadequate or improperly obtained evidence. They may be forced into that position by way of a successful Motion to Suppress Evidence, or because a critical witness is not available.
  • The defendant may exercise his or her constitutional right to a trial, which can result in:
    • A conviction. If all 12 jurors agree unanimously that the prosecution has proved each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt;
    • An acquittal. If all 12 jurors agree that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden or
    • A hung jury and a mistrial. If there is a perfectly split opinion between the jurors.
  • A plea bargain. Both the prosecution and defense avoid the expense and uncertainty that is inherent in the court system.

 

For plea bargains and case settlement, there are several settlement alternatives that are available. However, local customs may change this landscape somewhat.  From worst to best, these include:

 

  • Agreeing to admit to driving under the influence or driving with an alcohol level of .08 or higher. This is followed by negotiating the most favorable consequences;
  • Agreeing to settle for a “Wet-Reckless” — alcohol related reckless driving (Vehicle Code section 23103 pursuant to 23103.5);
  • Agreeing to settle for a “Dry Reckless” — non-alcohol related reckless driving (Vehicle Code section 23103);
  • Exhibition of Speed (Vehicle Code section 23109);
  • Moving violations (such as speeding, unsafe lane change, etc.)
  • Dismissal of the charges

What may be an appropriate settlement will vary based on the unique facts and circumstances of the case.

 

Admitting to driving with a .08% alcohol level may produce a favorable outcome, especially if it is a reduction from a felony DUI to a misdemeanor DUI.  In cases with an aggravated fact pattern, being allowed to plead to a misdemeanor DUI with the minimum possible consequences can represent a tremendous victory and a very favorable outcome.

Wet Reckless

Alcohol-Related Reckless Driving (Wet Reckless)

Better than a DUI is a wet reckless. Some advantages to a wet reckless:

  • There is no mandatory action DMV license suspension.
  • The alcohol education classes may be shortened from four months to four weeks.
  • There is no requirement for an SR-22 filing (unless a loss was suffered at the DMV Hearing).
  • For those who have professional license issues, such as real estate agents and brokers, doctors, nurses, teachers, attorneys, and so forth, having a wet reckless conviction looks considerably better to the various boards and licensing agencies than a DUI.

 

In some respects, a wet reckless charge is treated the same way as a DUI in the sense that it is considered “priorable.” This means that future DUI arrests will be considered multiple offense DUIs following a wet reckless conviction. Insurance companies generally view a wet reckless as an alcohol-related conviction that justifies an increased insurance rate.  However, especially in the case of a multiple offense DUI charge, a wet reckless can actually be a very good outcome.

Dry Reckless

Non-Alcohol Related Reckless Driving (Dry Reckless)

An even better option is reckless driving not involving alcohol, also known as “dry reckless.” A dry reckless conviction is better than a DUI conviction in every way. Since it typically carries only a fine and probation, a dry reckless conviction is not priorable. The court may, however, still order the driver to attend alcohol education classes.. The dry reckless doesn’t count as a prior DUI conviction if an individual is arrested again for drunk driving within 10 years. Also, a dry reckless plea doesn’t require an SR-22 if the driver is successful at a DMV hearing.

Exhibition of Speed

Exhibition of Speed

There are times when a prosecutor offers a plea of Exhibition of Speed when the DUI case is particularly weak. Similar to a dry reckless plea, an offer to reduce a drunk-driving charge to an exhibition of speed is a serious bargain. A driver who pleads guilty to exhibition of speed normally is only ordered to pay a fine, although alcohol education classes may also be required. It can’t be counted as a prior offense in a future drunk driving arrest, and no SR-22 filing is required if the driver wins his or her DMV hearing.

Traffic Infractions

Traffic Infractions

Having a DUI charge reduced to a mere traffic infraction, such as speeding or unsafe lane change, is sometimes possible. Obviously, this is the best possible outcome, second only to a total dismissal of the charges. The driver need only pay a fine, and may even be able to attend traffic school to remove the citation from his or her record. There is no requirement for an SR-22 or alcohol education courses, and the driver walks away without a criminal record.