Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) last night. I am wondering if it’s easier to just plead guilty to the charge. I have heard that fighting a DUI charge can cost thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. I did have a few beers to drink, but I don’t know if I was really drunk. I felt like I had full control of the vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest, and I was only stopped because my tail light was out.”
What is the first step after a DUI arrest?
If you have been arrested for DUI you will have to attend an arraignment. The arraignment is the first court appearance where the court will tell you the charges, what penalties you can expect, the fact that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and what the state must prove to convict you of the DUI charge. The court will then ask you whether or not you are guilty or not guilty.
Now, you asked whether you should simply plead guilty or fight the DUI charges. You also mentioned you were not sure whether or not you were really guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.
It’s important to note that just because you plead not guilty at the arraignment this does not mean that you are taking a sworn oath that you are innocent of the alleged crimes. Rather, you accept that you are innocent until proven guilty and that you would like for the prosecution to provide evidence of your guilt.
Pleading not guilty allows you to discuss your DUI arrest with a lawyer
An alternative to simply pleading guilty at your arraignment is to talk to a DUI lawyer. If you have not had the chance to talk to a lawyer prior to your arraignment that is fine. You can plead not guilty at the arraignment, call a lawyer after your day in court, and have them petition the court for all materials related to your DUI arrest.
After all of the evidence for your DUI arrest has been gathered, the DUI lawyer can review the information and after they have determined whether or not there are weaknesses in the state’s case against you, they can contact the District Attorney.
Unfortunately, if you decide to plead guilty and not fight the charges you will never know whether the state had a strong case against you or whether the prosecutor would have been willing to exercise their prosecutorial discretion in your favor.
Can I try to negotiate my own plea deal?
You do not legally have to hire a DUI lawyer. Unfortunately, however, given the complexity of DUI laws and the seriousness of the consequences of a DUI conviction, you might want some professional help.
For example, did you know that a conviction for DUI is almost impossible to expunge from your criminal record? Did you know that some charges may jeopardize your immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen? Did you know that a DUI conviction can result in a driver’s license suspension or revocation?
With all that can go wrong, it’s important to talk to a DUI lawyer before you plead guilty to a DUI charge.
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