A plea bargain, as it relates to a DUI case, in Los Angeles means that you and your attorney agree to settle the case with the prosecutor or judge, in order to take advantage of a deal that has been offered to you. Usually when the prosecutors offer to settle a DUI case, they tell the attorney that if the client agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a particular charge or charges, they will recommend to the judge that a particular sentence is appropriate. In most circumstances if the two sides agree to a certain resolution, then the judge will go along with it and sentence the defendant accordingly. If the judge does not agree to the proposed resolution, then the defendant would be entitled to withdraw their guilty or no contest plea.
Sentences in DUI cases usually include a fine, alcohol program and a probationary period. There are other penalties like jail, community service, cal trans, alcohol anonymous classes and a host of other punishments that apply to particular cases. Even though DUI cases are typically not very complicated, they do carry consequences that can be life altering. This is why I always suggest that if a person is charged with a DUI, they get into to see a savvy DUI defense attorney, who has handled cases like their’s in the court where it is pending and let them guide you through the process. Going with an inexperience attorney is usually not a good idea and can lead to severe unnecessary consequences.
Because the prosecutors are people and subject to emotional reactions to cases, it is always best to make sure that your defense attorney is familiar with the system you find yourself in, so they can navigate you through any pitfalls that may come up along the way.
In most courts in Los Angeles County, it is the prosecutor who offers the deals to settle DUI cases. The judge will deal with any violations of probation after the deal is done. However, if a defense attorney feels that the offer the prosecutor is offering his or her client is not fair, the defense attorney can ask the judge what they will offer if the client agrees to plead guilty or no contest. The judge can agree to make an offer or can defer to the prosecutor and refuse to make an offer less then they are offering. This is something that is up to the particular judge and is not something that is always cut and dry.
In my experience, many judges will under cut the prosecutors and offer better deals. This depends on the court and the particular judges disposition. One downside to this strategy is that the judge can only control the punishment, not the actual charges. Therefore, if a client does not want the particular charge on their record, then the negotiation will have to take place with the prosecuting agency. In a scenario where a particular prosecutor will not budget, the next step would be to go up the chain of command and talk to one of their superiors. Of course this strategy should only be employed if the defense attorney knows the system and is familiar with the potential ramifications of making such a move.
Long story short, if you find yourself facing a DUI then you should hire a solid experienced attorney. The main goals that I have at the first meeting with the client is to give them peace of mind and help them take some control of the situation back. We talk about what they are facing and what they can do on their end to assist me in achieving a result for them that they can live with. No one wants to have to deal with a DUI case, but if you do have to, then you should do it once, do it right and never do it again!