A plea bargain is a compromise between a prosecutor and a defendant. Your lawyer may advise you to accept a plea bargain, depending on the facts of your case. However, plea deals aren’t usually in your best interest if you’ve been charged with three or more DUI offenses.
It’s not uncommon for clients to ask if plea bargaining is an option for their DUI case. Anyone arrested and charged with DUI will likely be offered a deal by a prosecutor. You should always have an attorney representing you during these discussions to ensure you don’t incriminate yourself or give away your defense.
There are many types of plea deals. In some cases, the prosecutor may offer to dismiss one of the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea to another. They may also ask you to agree to a sentence that involves lower fines or other penalties. Your attorney will advise you whether you should accept or reject such plea deals.
On TV shows and in the movies, plea bargaining is often depicted as a prosecutor offering to reduce someone’s penalties in exchange for a guilty plea. While this isn’t completely inaccurate, plea bargaining in First and Second Offense DUI cases typically leads to one of the Alternative Dispositions provided for by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, § 24(1)(a)(4) and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, § 24D.
One of the most common questions is whether a DUI charge can be reduced to a reckless driving charge. While this type of plea deal isn’t impossible, it is rare and completely dependent upon the details of your case.
Plea deals aren’t always in your best interest. Depending on your charges and your circumstances, it may be a better choice to fight your charges. An experienced DUI attorney can advise you whether to plea bargain with multiple DUI offenses or go to trial.
Second DUI Plea Bargaining
When you’ve been charged with a second DUI, you have two options:
- Plea or admit to sufficient facts
If you plea/admit to sufficient evidence against you, you may qualify for an alternative disposition that will include either a period of probation or a suspended jail sentence. This is the most common outcome of Second Offense DUI cases. Most judges are amenable to this disposition and it’s common for prosecutors to offer this as part of a plea bargain.
If your previous DUI occurred over 10 years ago, you may qualify for a “first offender’s” disposition, which usually involves a period of probation and the mandatory completion of a driver alcohol education program. You cannot qualify for any alternative disposition if your case involved serious bodily injury or death, however.
- Fight the charges
If you choose to fight your charges, your attorney will work to suppress evidence and argue in your defense at trial. They will attempt to get you a Not Guilty verdict or argue that your case should be dismissed.
Your attorney will be in the best position to advise you on your best choice after reviewing your case.
Third DUI Plea Bargaining
When charged with a third DUI, the prosecutor may offer you’re a plea deal. But pleading/admitting on a third DUI charge is usually of little benefit. Third Offense DUI is a felony in Massachusetts, so there is a minimum mandatory jail sentence that the court must impose if you plead guilty. You can’t avoid this jail sentence if you plead guilty to a third DUI.
If you’ve been charged with other serious crimes in conjunction with your third DUI, a plea deal might be an option. But in most cases, you’ll face the same sentence by pleading/admitting that you would if you fight your case and lose.
For this reason alone, it’s best to obtain an experienced DUI attorney and use your constitutional rights to hold the government to its burden of proof. This is true of any subsequent DUI offenses as well. The minimum jail sentences are even harsher for Fourth and Fifth Offense DUI.
If you’ve been charged with your second, third, fourth, or fifth DUI, the stakes are high. Consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest to protect your rights and start building a defense.