Plea Bargaining? What to Expect During DUI Negotiations

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2019 | Criminal Defense, DUI


After being arrested with a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, the individual facing the charges may not be clear on what to expect next.

A defense attorney will begin to work immediately on either getting the charges dropped or reduced to a lesser offense, and all of this occurs during DUI negotiations. It helps to understand what to expect when it comes to DUI negotiations, as they can be key in avoiding trial and jail time.


Why Negotiate on a DUI?


Normally, it is highly unlikely the prosecution will dismiss the charge via negotiations; a dismissal is usually obtained by winning a legal argument in a motions hearing.. Unless strong evidence exists that there was not proper reasonable suspicion  to pull the individual over in the first place or the breathalyzer was not properly handled; the prosecution is more likely to reduce the DUI charge to a lesser offense through negotiations..

These lesser charges include negligent driving or reckless driving. They help to reduce charges to avoid mandatory jail time which is required with a DUI, being required to install an ignition interlock device on the defendant’s vehicle by the Department of Licensing (DOL), avoiding the suspension of an individual’s license by DOL, and avoiding having a DUI on the client’s record.

Every client has a different objective when it comes to why he or she wishes to negotiate on a DUI charge. It is important that the client discuss these objectives and concerns with their attorney to see if they are even possible or realistic.

Once this discussion takes place, the attorney is then able to move forward in the plea-bargaining process.


What Is Plea Bargaining?


Plea bargaining is the official process of negotiating with the prosecutor for the purposes of reducing the DUI charges in hopes of avoiding required consequences that accompany a Washington State DUI conviction.

The defendant still pleads “guilty,” but for a lesser charge than a DUI. Many different reasons exist for why the prosecution would feel motivated to plea bargain.

One reason is the case has legal weaknesses, meaning the facts are not strong enough to support a conviction or the witnesses are not credible or available to testify. If the prosecution has doubts about the strength of the case, it is likely he or she will be more willing to negotiate a plea.

Keep in mind that the prosecution is not obligated to make a plea deal in every case. The prosecutor is motivated by outside factors not just involving the facts of the case. He or she may want to save the court expense or time on the case, the prosecutor may feel that trial is not worth his or her time and effort.


When Does Plea Bargaining Occur?


No set “plea bargaining” stage exists, as these bargains and agreements can happen at any time. It is a negotiation process that will continue throughout the case, starting at the first pretrial hearing up until the day of trial. Some pleas are even worked out after trial is started if the prosecution has reason to believe the case is weaker than expected.

The prosecution will start by offering a plea to the defense, who will discuss the option with the client and will normally come back with a counter-offer.


Factors Affecting Plea Bargains


Several factors play into why a plea bargain would be offered. The facts of the case play a major part in why the prosecution would offer a deal, but the legal issues involved do as well.

If the client has a limited or has no criminal history, the prosecution may be more motivated to negotiate a settlement.

In addition, if the witnesses are not available or are not credible on behalf of the prosecution, they may be more inclined to settle in lieu of trial.

The court’s crowded calendar may also provide motivation if the court is pushing the prosecutor’s office to only pursue trials that need to go forward. Additionally, the number of cases the prosecutor has active at one time may provide motivation for him or her to settle some of their cases.

Tips Regarding Plea Deals


A defense attorney will work with the client on whether the deal should or should not be accepted, but certain tips do help if the defendant is presented with a plea the day of trial.

One common tip is to not make a deal on the day of trial until the defendant sees that the arresting officer has been subpoenaed and is present. Many courts will dismiss a case if the police officer is not present. Ask the prosecutor whether the police officer is planning on being there, and if not, it may be more beneficial to take the chance and see if the judge will dismiss the case.

In addition, make sure the plea is put into writing. Many parties will work out a verbal agreement before the judge, but the judge does not have to accept the deal as offered. Normally, judges do, but judges may choose to dictate other terms. If that does happen, ask to withdraw the plea and go to trial if the terms are radically different than what was stated originally.

Contact Us Today!

If you have been charged or convicted of a DUI, the experienced defense attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates can help. Call today to schedule your free consultation 253-683-4180. Ask about our military discount and convenient payment plans.