Should You Ever Plead Guilty to a DUI?
Residents of Overland Park, KS, often make the critical mistake of thinking they don’t need legal representation for DUI charges. Some even believe that by pleading guilty, they can put a quick end to the court proceedings. However, driving under the influence is a serious charge that can have a lasting impact on your life. It is for this reason, if none other, that you need to contact a DUI lawyer before pleading to any charges.
Ask a DUI Lawyer in Overland Park, KS: Should You Ever Plead Guilty to a DUI?
The simple answer to this question is no, you should not plead guilty. Many believe doing so is the path of least resistance, but a guilty plea is in fact the shortest path to a conviction, meaning you will be penalized in ways that can severely impact your family, career, and job. A first-time DUI conviction qualifies as a Class B misdemeanor and often brings with it a monetary fine, license suspension, and jail time.
Let’s look at each of these penalties in greater detail. At sentencing, the judge will likely impose a fine in the range of $750 to $1000. Court costs and an additional Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program fee of $150 may also apply.
Your driving privileges will be suspended based on your breathalyzer test results or refusal using the measurements below:
- 30-day suspension for test results under .150
- One-year suspension for test results of .150 or more
- One-year suspension for refusing a test
More Penalties, Including Jail Time
Your vehicle may be similarly impounded and stored at your own expense. Once you do regain your license, you will likely need an ignition interlock device installed on your car. Again, you must pay for that device, although the exact cost will vary depending on the features required and the length of time the device must be installed. In some instances, you may be restricted to driving only to and from work.
A first-time DUI conviction also carries a jail sentence of up to six months. In lieu of jail time, the judge may sentence you to 100 hours of community service. In some cases, probation may be ordered instead of jail time. This usually happens after serving at least two full days in a treatment program or jail. Probation carries additional conditions, such as attending alcohol school, that must be met to retain your freedom.
Criminal Conviction Records
A guilty plea can also impact your ability to obtain professional licenses or employment. Following a DUI conviction, you will have a criminal record that can show on pre-employment background checks for at least seven years. Convictions over seven years old can continue to be reported for jobs in Overland Park, KS that pay $20,000 or more per year.
Allow for a Possible Defense
At this point, you may still believe pleading guilty is the right choice because the DUI charges appear correct. However, the details of those charges need to be reviewed by an experienced DUI lawyer. A prosecutor must prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Pleading guilty removes that burden and allows the court to administer all available penalties.
On the other hand, pleading not guilty gives your lawyer a chance to develop a fair defense. A DUI case may at first seem hopeless but often has flaws that only a trained attorney can find.
Inaccurate Breath Alcohol Tests
Take, for instance, the breathalyzer test used to determine if you’re too impaired to drive. This test measures your blood’s alcohol level but is often inaccurate; a single test in and of itself usually cannot identify the true levels of alcohol in your body. Yet police officers rarely administer more than one test before making an arrest.
Likewise, variations in body temperature, air temperature, and human physiology can result in falsely high readings. Even the breathalyzer itself is prone to a 10 percent margin of error. In concert with a forensic toxicology expert, a DUI lawyer can identify potential flaws in breathalyzer results and present their findings in court.
Illegal Stop of Vehicle
A driver can be stopped only if the police officer reasonably believes a law has been violated. This means an officer cannot pull you over based on a feeling. They must have a verifiably good reason for doing so.
Likewise, a person is not guilty of a crime simply by leaving a bar or driving a vehicle in the early morning hours. A qualified attorney in Overland Park, KS, can analyze the police report and determine if the traffic stop leading to your arrest met all legal parameters.
Invalid Field Sobriety Tests
In order to be accurate, standardized field sobriety tests must be taught, administered, and performed the exact same way with every single driver. Otherwise, they cannot be described as valid predictors for impairment cues. Some studies, however, have found these tests are error-free only 60 to 70 percent of the time. When performed on drivers who are elderly, overweight, or have disabilities, field sobriety tests are completely invalid.
Some field tests are not even recognized by all law enforcement agencies because of their known inaccuracies. Using these tests as evidence in a DUI case is dubious at best, and a qualified attorney can make this argument in a compelling way.
Reviewing the Legal Process
The arraignment will likely be your first court appearance after your arrest. If you do not yet have an attorney at this point, you can hire one. Again, you shouldn’t enter a guilty plea until you have at least consulted with an attorney. A not-guilty plea is the only one that provides the time necessary to review the charges against you and build a defense strategy.
A court date will then be set and, in the meantime, you and your attorney can study the evidence gathered by the prosecution. After a thorough review, your lawyer will identify the best course of action: to negotiate for a plea bargain with the prosecutor or fight the charges in court. Working with an attorney yields another advantage as well, and that is knowing your best interests will be represented in either course your attorney chooses.
It’s common for prosecutors to offer plea bargains shortly after a DUI arrest, but those deals are rarely advantageous to the defendant. A prosecutor doesn’t want to pave an easy path for you; instead, they want to enforce the law to the fullest extent possible and win convictions.
The lesson here is that you should never accept a plea bargain without first speaking to an attorney. They will explain the consequences associated with that deal and, if it seems more harmful than beneficial, negotiate on your behalf. You’re more likely to obtain a favorable deal through this process than that which comes from an unsolicited plea bargain before you choose legal representation.
A Beneficial Deal
Although a plea bargain requires that you plead guilty to the negotiated charges, you may yet avoid a damaging DUI conviction. This means the potential to keep your driving privileges, pay fewer fees, and even avoid jail.
If you instantly plead guilty to DUI charges, you accept all punishments the court may assert and lose your rights to representation. A lawyer will not be able to review your case, plan a defense, or negotiate with the prosecutor. You can retain these privileges, however, simply by pleading not guilty at the arraignment. If you’re facing a DUI charge, protect yourself by scheduling a free consultation today at Billam & Henderson, LLC, Attorneys at Law.