What is a DUI Plea Bargain?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A driving under the influence (DUI) plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor in a DUI case in which the prosecution agrees to reduce charges or to negotiate a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. DUI plea bargains are relatively rare, but they are sometimes offered. When a plea bargain for any type of case is offered by the prosecution, the defendant should discuss it with legal counsel to determine whether or not it is a good deal.

A DUI plea involves a defendant pleading guilty in exchange for reduced charges.
A DUI plea involves a defendant pleading guilty in exchange for reduced charges.

In a plea bargain, the prosecutor approaches the defense and pledges to reduce the charges or the sentence, and sometimes both, in exchange for a guilty plea before trial. This is one way to keep the court system from becoming hopelessly clogged. If every case went to trial, the courts would quickly become backlogged. The prosecution may also try to negotiate a plea bargain if they feel that the case is less than ideal, with the goal of getting a conviction and closing the matter.

A judge must approve a plea bargain before it is final.
A judge must approve a plea bargain before it is final.

For the defense, the advantage of accepting a DUI plea bargain is that there is a known outcome. Pushing to go to trial may result in a harsher sentence or conviction on more serious terms. With a plea bargain, on the other hand, the impact on the defendant's criminal history is reduced.

In the case of the DUI plea bargain, the prosecution may offer a reduction of charges to reckless driving or driving with an open container if the defendant will agree to plead guilty. This is generally only offered if the defendant has a clean criminal history; someone who has been convicted for driving under the influence before, for example, will usually not be offered a DUI plea bargain. If the defendant agrees, the case does not go to trial, the lesser charges are entered on the defendant's record, and a fine may be imposed.

Driving while intoxicated is treated as a very serious crime in many regions of the world. Having a DUI conviction on one's record can result in problems down the line. Being offered a DUI plea bargain offers an opportunity to remove the blotch from one's criminal record. People should consider the advantages and disadvantages of such an arrangement carefully before accepting or refusing the deal. A lawyer familiar with the specifics of the case and the situation can offer advice about a DUI plea bargain.

Having a DUI conviction on one's record can result in problems down the line.
Having a DUI conviction on one's record can result in problems down the line.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Some police and prosecutors "spin" (lie), going for wins rather than the truth. Sadly, this happens all the time, even with some horrendous crimes (rape, etc). It is also why the citizens must not be too quick to judge someone until all the facts have been heard, and also why a great number of good people have no respect for authority.


I got a dui in Washington state back in 2001 when I wasn't even driving. My keys were not in the ignition and I was not even by my vehicle. The police officer did not see me driving the vehicle but he lied and said he did because he asked me where I came from and I pointed to my truck.

He then asked me to do all of the sobriety testing which I passed. He then asked me to blow into his little machine in his car and I refused because he told me that if I didn't blow high enough that he would get a blood test done to prove there was something wrong with me. I then refused all testing at that point as I realized the officer had some kind of problem with me and was going to arrest me no matter what.

I thought I had to take the other tests and I figured he would just let me go but that isn't what happened. It cost me a total of around $11,000, which included my lawyer, investigator to prove the officer could not have seen me drive into the parking lot and he lied and said he did on his report.

After many trips to court and alcohol evaluations etc., I was told on my last day of court to take reckless endangerment and pay a $900 fine or I would go to trial for another $2,000 a day. I was also told that the charge would not show up on my driving record or be reported to DOL if I took the lesser charge so I did.

Now I just heard that if the keys were not in the ignition that I couldn't have been charged to start with. This makes me think that the laws and the officers and lawyers are just making up the rules as they go and are making money off of people like me who don't want to have anything on their record.

I have no faith in the system or in the courts to this day. A few years later my insurance rates went up real high and I started to think about it and pulled my records and here the charge appeared that wasn't supposed to be there to start with as part of my plea bargain. I then had to have my lawyer go back to court to have it taken off. But then I still had to pay the higher insurance rates for that year until I got it removed. I was out that money also.

Why is it that I can't go back and sue all of those people and get some of my money back now? The law and the system took a whole lot of money from me and I think I should be able to sue them but then I heard that it goes back too far. How can I have faith in the laws and courts at this point?

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