If you are charged with DUI (driving under the influence), here are the two routes your case is most likely to take:
Plead Guilty As Charged
One of the options you have is to plead guilty to your DUI charges. This may seem like the worst option ever because you will be immediately sentenced for your crime. However, there are situations in which pleading guilty to a DUI charge actually makes sense. For example, if there is clear evidence against you, say your blood alcohol content is way over the legal limit, it may be best to plead guilty and avoid wasting money and time on the defense. This is particularly true if it's your first DUI and your punishment isn't likely to be earth-shattering. However, make sure you consult a lawyer first before pleading guilty to any crime.
Plea bargaining is similar to pleading guilty in that you get to admit to some criminal charges; however, there is a huge difference in that you don't admit to the original charges or don't face the full wrath of the law. In this case, you avoid prosecution by admitting to reduced charges, and you are sentenced to a less lenient charge than you would have otherwise received. Your DUI lawyer will advise you on which plea deal makes sense.
Plead Not Guilty
If you want to fight the charges against you, then you have to plead not guilty. This is one of the most common pleas criminal suspects make when their charges are read. It is also the plea you should make if you have been arraigned in court and you still don't have a lawyer. You can always change a not-guilty plea into a guilty plea or even a plea bargain, but it is impossible to move from a guilty to a not-guilty plea.
Once you have pleaded not guilty, it means you are headed for trial and you have to prepare for one. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may have the option of asking for these two forms of trials:
A jury trial is where a group of ordinary citizens like you listens to both sides of the case, the defense, and the prosecution and then submit its verdict to the judge. A jury trial makes sense if:
- Your defense strategy involves seeking sympathy (it's very rare for a judge to be sympathetic)
- You are facing a judge known for their tough stance on DUI cases (maybe they are religiously or politically motivated)
In a bench trial, both sides make their cases and then the judge delivers the verdict. In some jurisdiction, this may be the only option available for you if you plead not guilty. If you do have the option of choosing trial by judge or jury trial, it may make sense to opt for the bench option if you have a technical defense to present. For example, if you were arrested for a non-driving DUI (say you were just sitting in the car), a judge is more likely to understand your case than a panel of jurors.
For more information, contact an attorney such as H. Charles Woerner, Jr. PA.