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Should You Plea Bargain Your California DUI Case?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Feb 22, 2020

This is a big question on a lot of people's minds.  Do they want their attorney to talk to the prosecutor about working out some deal related to their DUI charges pending against them in Los Angeles county?

For me, it's straightforward if the client has a good case that the prosecutors are going to have a hard time trying to prove, and the client pays me to do the trial.  This is so easy because I don't have to talk to the DA about the case.  I don't have to try to convince them to give a lesser charge or not put the client in jail, whatever the case may be.  It's just a matter of preparing the case for the trial to try to beat them.

I love these types of circumstances.  Unfortunately, better than 95% of cases are resolved through a plea bargain in Los Angeles county.  In other words, in most cases, if you're charged with a DUI (CALCRIM 2110), the prosecutors have the evidence, and really, what you're doing is just negotiating, trying to get a better deal.

Right from the beginning, I have the client come in and sit down, and we look at the evidence.  First, we will talk about the case when you decide whether to hire me.  You're going to give me all the information that you have.

Should You Plea Bargain Your California DUI Case?

I'll use my experience in that court and just from doing thousands of DUIs over the last 26 years, but we won't have the other half of the puzzle.  We're not going to have the police report before us when we have our first meeting.

We'll get that after the fact.  We can talk a bit about the case and start to strategize whether it's a case you want to fight or a case you want me to try to plea bargain, but we need to get that paperwork.

Once we have that, we'll be able to get a good idea of the case's strengths and weaknesses and whether it's a cause worth fighting or something that we should try to resolve.

Deciding Whether It's Possible to Win Your Case

So, the answer to the question as to whether or not you should have your attorney try to plea bargain lies in, can you win your case?  If you can't win your case, then absolutely, your attorney will have to plea bargain for you; otherwise, you're going to go to trial, spend money, lose and get a worse resolution than you would if you just had your attorney work things out.

If, on the other hand, they don't have the evidence against you or there's some problem with your case that is so bad that your attorney will be able to get it dismissed, then you don't have to worry about plea bargaining.  And then, of course, there are those cases right in the middle.

Usually, the cases that are right in the middle, a lot of times, the prosecutors will see the problems in their case, and your attorney will be able to work out a resolution that makes sense for you — whether it's a lesser charge or some diversion program depending on the circumstances of the case.

Once you hire that attorney and talk to the attorney and you give him all the information — you get the paperwork related to your case — you both go over it, you talk about it — at that point, if you spent the money to hire the lawyer, you're not an expert on DUI's, let that attorney guide you through the process.

If you feel in your gut that you didn't drink enough alcohol, for example, to be under the influence for purposes of a DUI — as long as you understand what that means — that you don't have to be drunk — you can't safely operate a motor vehicle. And you think that a jury will believe your version of events and find that you were safe on the road, then talk to your attorney about that.  You guys can work something out, and you can take the case to trial.

Review of Mitigating Factors in Your DUI Case

But suppose, on the other hand, you realize that you did drink enough alcohol where there could be an argument where you couldn't safely operate a motor vehicle. In that case, you should talk to your DUI attorney about that and make sure that you make the right decisions moving forward on your case.

It's crucial once you decide plea bargain, you give your attorney all the information related to your case — all the mitigating information, obviously, then you let your attorney take over and let them do their job.  Let them figure out what the best resolution is for you.

Sometimes it's a back and forth, a give and take, and sometimes you get to the point where the prosecutor looks at your attorney and says, hey, this is what our offer is.  If you don't want it, take the case to trial.  That happens all the time.

Sometimes you run out of rope as far as negotiating goes, and then you have to come back to your client and say, here is the best we can get.  Either take that, or you're going to have to take your case to trial. You're not going to take your case to trial unless you can win it.  You don't want to go to crack unless you have a real good chance of winning.  That's something you and your attorney need to talk about and make the right decision.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0963.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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