After you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles, you will be presented with several chances to plead guilty. A prosecutor may approach you before your arraignment, promising you a sweetheart deal that is allegedly better than proceeding to trial. It may even feel tempting because you know you had a little bit of alcohol in your system and made a mistake.
Before you accept the deal, you should know what happens when you plead guilty to a DUI. Once you’ve made your plea, you’re very unlikely to be able to withdraw it. Instead, speak with a Los Angeles DUI attorney before accepting a guilty plea. They can help you understand what impact your plea will have on your life and what other options you might have.
Pleading to Guilty to a DUI
Once you’re brought before a judge, you will be required to plead to one of three things:
- Not Guilty
- No Contest
If you plead not guilty, you case will proceed towards trial. If you plead either guilty or no contest, you will proceed to sentencing. While there may be some functional reasons to plead no contest to a DUI charge, it is the same as pleading guilty for purposes of sentencing.
Sentencing and Penalties
Pleading guilty, or what usually comes in a prosecutor’s first offer of a plea bargain, is the same punishment you would face if you had lost at trial. Pleading guilty before a trial without a special plea bargain isn’t a way to avoid California’s harsh DUI penalties. It only means speeding up the judicial process.
The sorts of penalties you face for a “standard” DUI include:
- Fines and fees: Thousands of dollars in state-mandated fees and court assessment fees
- License Suspension: Between six months and four years, which may run concurrently with the DMV’s automatic administrative suspension for a DUI arrest
- Jail: Between two days in a local jail to 16 months in a state prison
- Probation: Up to five years
- DUI school: Mandatory DUI classes lasting weeks or months
- Driving restrictions: Installation of an ignition interlock device
The exact punishment you face for a DUI conviction depends on your history of DUI-related offenses. Any DUI-related offense in the past 10 years since the date of your arrest increases the penalties you could face. This includes any wet reckless charges you may have plead to in the past.
Getting you to plead guilty to your DUI charge is something every prosecutor is likely to try doing. It shows that the prosecutor’s office is tough on crime while also saving the judicial system time and money. However, getting you to plead guilty doesn’t always mean getting you to accept the initial charges.
Instead, you might be able to reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor. A plea bargain still means that you will be pleading guilty, but ideally one that is more in your favor. This might come in the form of a less harsh punishment or even a less severe charge on your record.
There are several different types of charges that you may be able to plead guilty to instead of a DUI. These include:
- Wet reckless: Driving recklessly with alcohol in your system, which can count against you if you’re later charged with a DUI.
- Dry reckless: Driving recklessly but will not count against you if you’re charged with a DUI.
- Traffic violations: Lesser charges that are rarely offered, unless there is reason to doubt a prosecutor can prove you had alcohol in your system.
- Drunk in public: Lesser charge that is rarely offered, unless there is doubt about whether you were driving under the influence or not.
Each of these possible charges comes with less harsh fines and less harsh potential jail sentences. You may save money on car insurance and avoid having a DUI on your criminal and driving records.
A DUI Attorney Can Help You Decide
Having a DUI conviction on your record will impact your life for a decade or more, even if you leave California. Before you plead guilty, discussing the specifics of your case with an experienced DUI attorney can save you years of trouble. DUI attorneys have the knowledge of California’s system to know if you’re getting a good deal and can let you know if you could do better.
If you’d like to learn more about your options and speak with a DUI lawyer for free today, you should contact us today. You can use the form to the right of this page to start the process right now. We’ll arrange a meeting with a top DUI attorney and get you on the path to settling your DUI charges.