DUI STEP 6: Choose Plea Bargain or Jury Trial

At some point in time during your DUI case in California, you are going to have to make a choice; whether you want to:-

  1. Take your case to trial and select a jury to decide your guilt or innocence.
  2. Or work out and accept a plea bargain with the prosecutor.

How to choose

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

This decision does not have to be made immediately and it is usually wise to make your decision after analyzing and assessing all of the evidence in your case and all of the potential consequences to your job, license, and insurance.

Choice 1. Going to Jury Trial

dui jury trialIf you decide that you do not want to accept the prosecutor’s plea bargain, your other choice is to have a jury trial. Under the law you have the right to have a speedy trial. This means that 45 days after your first court date for a misdemeanor DUI charge you have the right to a jury trial. You can select a jury and have the jury listen to the evidence against you and let them decide if you are guilty or innocent of the charges. (Note if you are in custody in jail, you have the right to a speedy trial after 35 days).

A jury is a group of 12 people selected from the community to decide your guilt or innocence. If they find you not guilty on all charges your criminal record will remain clean.

Advantages of Jury Trial

The advantages of going to trial are if you win, then :-

  • You do not have a DUI on your record
  • You get your license back (especially important if you have a commercial license)
  • You avoid all potential DUI punishment – no DUI fine, no alcohol class, no probation, etc.
  • You probably avoid increased insurance rates.

Disadvantages of Jury Trial

The disadvantages of trial are that :-

  • It can be time consuming, expensive, and stressful
  • There is no guarantee what punishment you will receive from the judge if you lose.

Time, Stress and Costs

Trials move very slowly. DUI trials usually take anywhere from 3 to 7 days so you need to take time off to conduct them. DUI Lawyers usually charge more for trials and often times you need an expert witness to testify on your behalf and the expert can cost you more or less $1,000 to testify, so trials take time and usually cost more. (See other DUI Costs).

In addition, trials can be stressful because you just don’t know which way the jury is going to decide, and if the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, then you face the added stress of not knowing what punishment you face from the judge who is ultimately going to sentence you.

Sometimes Jury Trial is the only way

Trials are usually investments in time and money with no guarantees; so you have to weigh the risks versus the benefits in making that decision. However, remember it is your constitutional right to have a jury trial, and sometimes it is the only way to fight the charges, and sometimes fighting the charges by a jury trial can really pay off.  If you are facing losing your job or other serious consequences from a DUI like losing your commercial license or your license for a year, then a jury trial might be the better option than a plea bargain so you can try to save your job, license, etc.

Choice 2: Plea Bargain

Work out & accept a Plea Bargain with the Prosecutor

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecutor in which you plead guilty or no contest to an agreed upon charge with an agreed upon punishment.

The prosecutor is the government lawyer who takes over your case from the police officer after you were arrested for DUI.

The Prosecutor determines a Plea Bargain offer

The prosecutor determines the plea bargain offered to you.

When you first go to court the prosecutor will have read the police report written about your DUI arrest. This report usually gives the police officer’s reason for pulling you over, his opinion of your objective symptoms (eyes, speech, breath, etc.), his opinion of your performance on the Field Sobriety Tests, and your results on the Breath Machine or Blood Test. Many times these police reports are biased and inaccurate.

Blood alcohol levels

The most important things in the eyes of the prosecutor are your blood alcohol levels as shown by your breath or blood tests and whether this is your first, second or third DUI within the last 10 years. The prosecutor also looks for DUI aggravating circumstances such as if you were involved in an accident, if your blood alcohol was over .20, if there were children under 14 in the car, if you are on probation for an earlier DUI, or if you refused to take a breath or blood test. If any of these aggravating circumstances apply you possibly face increased punishment from the prosecutor and possibly jail time.

Plea Bargain offer

The prosecutor will write down a plea bargain offer. Usually the offer is predictable if there are no aggravating circumstances.

Typical DUI Plea Bargains

See Typical DUI Plea Bargains

Advantages & Disadvantages of Plea Bargains

Advantages of Plea Bargains

  • Plea Bargains are your alternative if you do not want go to trial.
  • Plea bargaining takes less of your time.
  • You know what you face with a plea bargain.

Disadvantages of Plea Bargains

A DUI plea bargain means :-

  • It can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful
  • You will now have a crime on your record
  • You will have to pay a fine and do an alcohol class
  • You will have 2 points on your license record
  • You face increased insurance rates
  • You face possible exclusion from traveling to Canada.

See also which court you have to go to and learn how the ‘personality’ of each courthouse in Los Angeles County can affect your DUI case.