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Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information.
Maybe you think the cops pulled you over for no reason. Or maybe you don't think your speech was slurred when you talked to the officer. Or maybe you're convinced you passed those roadside sobriety tests. There could be dozens of good reasons to fight a DUI charge. But there could also be a few good reasons to plead guilty as well.
No one likes the idea of giving up without a fight, and you should never plead guilty to a crime you did not commit. But there may be advantages to pleading guilty to DUI. Here are a few:
Time & Money
Pleading guilty will obviously resolve your case more quickly. You won't have to go through scheduling hearings, pretrial motions, and the pretrial discovery process, not to mention the trial itself. Some DUI cases -- from the initial arrest to the sentencing -- can take over a year to complete. And that can mean a lot of time away from work and away from family, all while having an indeterminate verdict and sentence hanging over your head. (And, if you lose your case, don't forget about the appeals.)
All of that time in court can be expensive as well. Many courts charge court costs and filing fees for motions. And if you are challenging any of the sobriety tests, expert testimony about roadside tests, breathalyzers, and blood alcohol content can cost a pretty penny.
Crime & Punishment
Pleading guilty may save you time and money in terms of your DUI sentence as well. Prosecutors will often offer lesser fines or fewer days in jail or community service in exchange for a guilty plea. A DUI plea bargain can also result in a lesser charge, so you may be pleading guilty to reckless driving or something other than DUI. This means you may not have a DUI on your record after all is said and done.
A guilty plea may also be a requirement for acceptance into a DUI diversion program. A diversion program can suspend or withhold sentencing, contingent on the defendant meeting some requirements or performing some specific act. Such requirements can include community service, or an agreement that you don't commit any crimes, use drugs, or drive drunk. If you're able to abide by the terms for the specified period of time, your charges could be dismissed, clearing your criminal record.
Even if you're planning on pleading guilty to a DUI, you may still want to consult with an experienced DUI attorney about your case.