Plea bargains are an essential part of the modern criminal justice in California and throughout the rest of the U.S. In fact, plea bargaining is so common that it’s been estimated that more than 90% of all criminal cases are resolved through this process.
Ideally, the purpose of a plea bargain is to get a fair resolution to a criminal charge at a faster rate than would be possible with a full trial. However, the bargaining process isn’t always fair to defendants on their own.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in California, you are likely to receive a plea offer from the prosecution. Before you agree to it, you should speak with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer. We can connect you with one for free by calling us at (310) 862-0199.
Understanding the Purpose of Plea Bargains
The practice of offering individuals a chance to plead guilty to a charge prior to a trial is common at both the state and federal level. To understand why plea bargains have become an essential part of the criminal justice system in the U.S., it is important to understand the burden facing the courts.
At the federal level, the criminal caseload was over 80,000 for 2018. There are fewer than 100 trial courts in the federal judiciary. The caseload is made worse by the fact that there are under 1,000 judges to hear the cases, particularly as this count of judges includes those handling appeals and other non-criminal matters.
The California state court system has a similar problem. There are 57 state trial courts, with one located in each county. The California courts report that they faced saw more than 4,000,000 criminal filings. The state court system has fewer than 2,000 judges to oversee cases.
Given these numbers at both the federal and state levels, plea bargains offer an attractive option for all parties involved. Judges and prosecutors can only oversee so many trials at once, meaning that a particular case can drag on for years before seeing the inside of a courtroom.
How Plea Bargains Impact Defendants
Ideally, a plea bargain is supposed to give a defendant a favorable punishment for opting to forgo a trial. However, this isn’t always the case. Defendants are frequently offered plea deals that give them the maximum possible penalty for the charges they are facing. These plea deals only save individuals from the stress of waiting for the outcome of their charges.
Prosecutors usually offer deals like these to defendants who opt to represent themselves or have a public defender, who are often equally as overworked as the prosecution. They count on people not knowing that these are the maximum terms of the charge. Having a dedicated private attorney by your side can be enough for the prosecution to offer a fairer deal.
Plea Bargaining in DUI Cases
DUI cases in California face the same structure as any other criminal charges. The prosecution is likely to approach you early on after your arrest to offer you a plea deal. Having a DUI lawyer by your side early in the process can reduce the likelihood of facing the maximum possible penalties.
A DUI plea bargain can include:
- A lesser charge
- A more lenient penalty
When it comes to DUI cases, a lesser charge will result in a substantially lower penalty. This is because California has particularly severe penalties for people found guilty of drunk driving.
There isn’t a single lesser charge that you might receive through a plea bargain for arising from a DUI arrest. The lesser charges you might face include:
- Wet reckless
- Dry reckless
- Drunk in public
- Exhibition of speed
- Open container violations
- Other traffic infractions
The specific plea bargain will depend heavily on the facts of your case. It will also depend heavily on how well your defense is arranged. Even if the facts are in your favor, without proper representation may make it unlikely that you get any of these lesser charges.
A DUI Lawyer Can Improve What You Get in a Plea Bargain
While the purpose of plea bargains is to get a fair resolution to a case quickly, the prosecution will try to get the maximum penalty possible. Depending on the facts of your case, the maximum penalty may not be the fairest resolution.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in California and want an expert to evaluate your case, call us at (310) 862-0199. We will help you arrange a free consultation with a leading DUI lawyer who can evaluate the facts of your case and help you understand the options available for you.