From the first court appearance on your DUI-DWI case, you always have the option to plead guilty to the charges against you. Often, clients who call us are so overcome with a feeling of guilt that the idea of admitting to their guilt consumes much of their analysis of how to proceed with their case. We understand completely.
If any criminal case deserves to be further explored before pleading guilty, it is the typical DUI-DWI case. Therefore, always have your case analyzed by a top criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI-DWI law before making a final decision.
If you elect to allow your attorney to reach the best possible negotiated deal with the prosecution for your situation, you may be able to significantly shorten the prosecutorial process by agreeing to plead guilty or nolo contendere to a single count of DUI-DWI. If this agreement to resolve the case with a negotiated plea is a part of an agreement with the prosecution to recommend a specified punishment, this is presented to the judge as a “negotiated” plea. The judge will either accept the terms of the negotiated plea, or you will be given the opportunity to withdraw your plea and go to trial.
Your judge may be willing to accept most of the negotiated conditions, but may add some additional or modified punishment, if the negotiated deal is to be accepted by the judge. Again, if you reject this modification to the terms of the negotiated deal, you can still proceed with a trial.
Another kind of plea is sometimes called a “blind” or “open” plea. It may also be called “pleading straight up.” This is where no agreement between your attorney and the prosecution can be reached. Instead, you stand before the court, plead guilty (or nolo contendere if this is allowed) and accept the punishment as determined by the judge after hearing from both the prosecution and your attorney.
In such situations, the judge will listen to any aggravating or mitigating factors from both attorneys. If you enter into a blind (open) plea, you have no chance to withdraw your plea if you do not like the punishment imposed by the judge during your sentencing.
In about a dozen states, first offenders (as defined in your state) may have the option of entering into some sort of “deferred” disposition or some form of withholding judgment of guilt for the DUI-DWI offense. Any such disposition only controls your STATE criminal history since the gatekeepers for your federal criminal history are unconcerned with such deferred adjudications for its record-keeping purposes.
This chapter discusses the “plea” process, when you should strongly consider pleading, and when it is not in your best interest. In the end, the decision of when to accept a plea, and when to opt for a trial, is yours and only yours.
An experienced DUI-DWI attorney can set forth the opinions and provide a recommendation based on his or her knowledge and years of experience, but the ultimate decision about going to trial or accepting either type of plea is YOURS.