Pros and Cons to Accepting a Plea Deal in a DUI Case

pros and cons accepting plea deal for dui case

Being charged with a DUI in Virginia can be a stressful and confusing experience. The legal repercussions can significantly impact your driving privileges, finances, and employment. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the prosecutor might offer you a plea deal, also called a plea bargain.

Should you accept the plea deal for a DUI? The experienced DUI defense attorneys at Flusche & Fitzgerald discuss the advantages and disadvantages of accepting a plea deal and what happens if you plead guilty to a DUI in Virginia.

Virginia’s DUI Laws

According to Virginia Code Section 18.2-266, driving under the influence (DUI) is defined as operating a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. You could also be charged with a DUI if you are under the influence of any narcotic drug, alcohol, or other intoxicant.

Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Virginia

Virginia has a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving and harsh penalties for those convicted of DUI. A first-time DUI conviction in Virginia usually results in up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and a license suspension of up to a year. Subsequent DUI offenses result in harsher penalties, including mandatory jail time, increased fines, and longer license suspensions.

Plea Bargain Pros and Cons

A plea deal is an agreement where you plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a known sentence. Accepting a plea deal can provide a sense of certainty and reduce the penalties you may encounter. However, it’s important to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks.

Advantages of Accepting a Plea Deal in Virginia

  • Reduced Charges and Penalties. The most significant advantage of a plea deal is the possibility of reduced charges. The prosecutor might agree to lower your charge from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a reckless driving charge with significantly less severe penalties. Prosecutors also sometimes agree to reduce the severity of the DUI; for example, they might “strike the BAC,” which means to take mandatory jail off the table. The plea bargain might also result in a lessened sentence, potentially avoiding jail time, fines, and license suspension.
  • Faster Resolution. Accepting a plea deal allows for a swift resolution, saving you time, money, and the emotional stress of an extended court battle.
  • Avoiding a Public Trial. DUI trials are public records and in open court. A plea deal helps you avoid the potential embarrassment and social stigma of a public trial.

Disadvantages of Accepting a Plea Deal

  • Criminal Record. Even with a reduced charge, a DUI conviction will still appear on your criminal record. This can have long-term consequences, impacting your job prospects, professional licenses, and even housing applications.
  • Limited Appeal Rights. Accepting a plea deal gives up your right to a trial. If new evidence surfaces that could exonerate you, it may be difficult or impossible to appeal your conviction.
  • Hidden Costs. While a plea deal might seem like a cost-saving option initially, there can be hidden expenses. DUI convictions often require alcohol education and substance abuse treatment programs, which can be costly. Additionally, your insurance premiums will likely increase significantly.

Accepting a plea deal may have long-term ramifications in many areas of your life. Seeking legal assistance can help you thoroughly understand the implications of your decision.

What Happens If You Accept a Plea Deal?

If you accept the plea deal, you’ll plead guilty to the agreed-upon charges. This means you will waive your right to a trial, where you could have the charges dropped or receive a more favorable verdict. Consequences of accepting a DUI plea deal include:

  • Criminal record. A DUI conviction will stay on your criminal record, potentially impacting your ability to get a job, housing, or professional licenses.
  • Driver’s license suspension. Virginia enforces strict suspension periods for DUI offenses. Depending on the severity of your case, your license could be suspended for months or even years.
  • Ignition interlock device (IID). The court may require you to install an IID, which prevents your car from starting if you register a BAC above a set limit.
  • Increased insurance rates. A DUI conviction can significantly increase car insurance rates for several years.

The specific penalties you face will depend on the circumstances of your case, your BAC level, and your criminal history.

What Happens If You Plead Guilty to a DUI in Virginia?

Even with a plea deal, pleading guilty means the charge you plead guilty to will be on your record.

What Happens If You Don’t Accept a Plea Deal?

If you reject the plea deal, your case goes to trial. This allows you to fight the charges and potentially get them dismissed if your lawyer finds flaws in the prosecution’s case. However, a harsher sentence is also possible if found guilty at trial.

How Long Does a DUI Plea Deal Take in Virginia?

The timeframe for a DUI plea deal can vary, but it’s generally faster than going to trial. After negotiations with the prosecutor, the process might be completed on your first appearance in court. If you opt for a trial, it’s routine to have to appear in court two or three times.

How Can a DUI Attorney Help with a Plea Deal?

An experienced DUI lawyer in Virginia can evaluate your case, clarify your legal options, including plea deals, and assist you throughout the process, including representing you in court if necessary.

Discuss Your Options with Flusche & Fitzgerald

The decision of whether to accept a plea deal for DUI is complex and depends on the specific details of your case. Flusche & Fitzgerald’s experienced Virginia DUI attorneys are well-versed in DUI law and the potential consequences you may face. We vigorously defend the rights of residents in Spotsylvania County and the surrounding areas. Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll help you understand the plea deal process or prepare for a strong defense in court.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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