At your first court appearance for your DUI, called the DUI arraignment, you will be asked how you plan to plead. There are three options for a DUI: guilty, not guilty and nolo contendere, also called no contest. You may come to the arraignment already knowing how you will plead or you may need guidance. You have a right to an attorney and can be appointed a public defender if you cannot afford one. If you do not know how to plead, consult with an attorney or your public defender to discus your options and the pros and cons of each. How you plead is important so don't just plead guilty to be done with your case. DUI charges have been known to be dropped or reduced, even in light of incriminating evidence. Pleading guilty to a DUI will end your case but will not end the consequences of such a charge. If you aren't prepared to make a plea at the DUI arraignment, you can ask the judge set another hearing date so you can review your police report and the charges against you and consult with an attorney or a public defender. How you plead to a DUI is not just a matter of whether or not the prosecution can prove you are guilty or not. Pleading guilty carries with it an additional matter of liability. If there is a potential for a lawsuit resulting from your DUI, if you were involved in or caused an accident or otherwise hurt someone or their property, pleading guilty can increase the chances that someone can seek damages from you. It is acceptable to plead nolo contendere or no contest, even if you feel the prosecution will have an easy time proving your guilt. This prevents you from admitting liability on paper, for any civil damages caused by your driving. Another option is to seek entry of a plea bargain. You may want to have the help of an attorney on this matter. A DUI plea bargain, which is commonly reducing your charges to a wet reckless charge, will mean you plead guilty to a lesser crime. A wet reckless charge is certainly better than DUI; you will not face the standard set of DUI punishments, like alcohol education classes and, in some counties, an ignition interlock device. However, it is still seen as a DUI for the purposes of sentencing subsequent offense and for insurance purposes. You cannot plead nolo contendere to a plea bargain. Plea bargains clear up courtroom space by getting your case resolved before going to trial and ensures you don't waste court resources on fighting a charge you are likely to be convicted of in the end. When considering how to plea, keep in mind the facts of your case. If your BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, was significantly over the legal limit of .08%, or there were other aggravating factors involved, such as being involved in an accident as a result of your driving, you should consider your chances of winning at trial if you continue to contest the charge. Speak to an attorney about your chances of winning at trial if you are unsure. If you were at the legal limit of .08%, it was your first offense, you were not driving unsafely and you cooperated with the whole process, you may be able to enter a plea bargain. Remember, pleading no contest does not prevent the conviction. You do not have to admit guilt to be charged with and punished for a DUI. Similarly, pleading not guilty will only take you so far in light of convincing evidence. There are a lot of things to consider before appearing at your DUI arraignment so discuss your options with a DUI defense attorney and be prepared.
If you are facing DUI charges in Tulare, Kings or Fresno counties, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help. With 10 years experience in DUI and criminal defense, attorney Christopher Martens can fight aggressively for you to ensure you are charged fairly and justly based on correct facts. Mr. Martens is not afraid to go all the way with your case and has taken over 50 cases to trial. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your options for defending your case.