At What Point Will The Prosecutor Offer A Plea Deal In A DUI Case?
In Tennessee, the criminal court system is broken up into two courts. General Sessions courts have the authority to handle misdemeanor cases and hold preliminary hearings on felony cases. Driving under the influence, unless it’s a fourth offense or greater, is an A misdemeanor. Therefore a defendant may choose to plead guilty and settle his case in General Sessions court if he wishes. It will be the defendant’s sole decision whether to enter a guilty plea. One of the disadvantages to a guilty plea in General sessions is not knowing all the evidence the prosecutor has. The attorney handling the case for the State of Tennessee is not required to turn over discovery on the case until the case reaches the criminal trial court.
If convicted, a first-offense DUI conviction in Tennessee generally results in a fine ($350-$1,500), suspension of driver’s license for one year, and a minimum of 48 hours in jail. If the driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20% or greater, the minimum jail time is seven days. If the offender had minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the minimum sentence is increased by 30 days. The maximum sentence for a first DUI conviction is 11 months and 29 days. The penalties continue to increase for successive DUI convictions. A second conviction carries a minimum of 45 days in jail and your driver’s license is suspended for two years. A third conviction for DUI has 120 days in jail as a minimum and a loss of license for six years. On the fourth driving under the influence offense, it goes from a misdemeanor to a felony and carries a minimum sentence of one year in jail.
Can A DUI Defense Attorney Get My Charges Reduced To A Lesser Offense?
It is possible for an attorney to negotiate a plea to a lesser or different charge than driving under the influence. Having the opportunity to plea to a reduced charge of reckless driving or reckless endangerment is not as common as it once was and some jurisdictions will not do it at all. It is ultimately a decision of the prosecutor. Most instances of defendants pleading to lesser or different charges occur when the prosecutor’s case is not the strongest. Some other criteria taken into account would be number and type of prior convictions, number of prior DUI convictions, location and circumstances of DUI charge, age of the defendant, any medical conditions, etc.
Are Most DUI Cases Settled With Plea Deals Or Do They Go To Trial?
Only a small percentage of DUI cases actually go to trial. A large percentage of DUI charges are resolved by plea deals. If the prosecutor agrees to a lesser charge or lesser punishment than the original charge normally carries, the defendant can agree to plead guilty. This plea bargaining process benefits both parties. It preserves the judicial economy by saving the prosecutor from having to try the case and also saves the judge and jury from hearing it. The plea bargain helps the defendant because he has the opportunity to know the outcome beforehand and usually avoid stiffer punishment than had he lost at trial. There are both pros and cons to the DUI plea bargain.
The plea deal is often a more attractive option than going to trial in cases where the evidence is overwhelming a conviction is certain. On the other hand, by entering into a guilty plea you are waiving many of your constitutional rights. A skilled attorney will help you navigate the process and ensure you get the best outcome for you.
What Criteria Do You Consider When Deciding Whether To Accept A Plea Deal Or Not?
Before deciding to plead guilty to any criminal charges it is important to know what evidence the state has against you. It is also important to do your own investigations and gather evidence favorable to your defense. Specific evidence which would be important would be participation and results of field sobriety test (SFST’s), circumstances and physical location of SFST’s, participation and results of blood or Breathalyzer test, dash/body camera footage, officers observations and testimony, any legal problems with the initial stop, any statements made by defendant during the investigation, physical appearance of defendant, and any other pertinent facts.
The plea deal is often a more attractive option than going to trial in cases where the evidence is overwhelming and a conviction is certain. Ultimately the decision whether to take a case to trial or to plea bargain is the decision of the defendant.
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