The Art and Law of Plea Bargaining a DUI in Arizona
Going to trial for a DUI charge in Arizona is an uncertainty. We can never be sure how jurors will weigh the evidence, the facts of the case, and the testimony to reach a verdict. Even in a bench trial, which is decided solely by the judge, the result can be uncertain.
Plea bargaining agreements eliminate the uncertainty. For both sides.
A staggering 97.3 percent of criminal cases nationally ended without a trial and a mere 2.7 percent did go to trial in 2016 according to the United States Sentencing Commission. Locally, in Maricopa County only 2.2 percent of criminal cases went to trial.
Sometimes the officer making the DUI arrest or another key witness is not available to testify in court and that gives the prosecution an incentive to enter into a plea bargain to ensure the record shows a conviction in the case.
Plea agreement fundamentals
The defendant agrees to plead guilty and in return the prosecutor will reduce the charge to a less serious offense and reduce the sentence and fines. A successful plea bargain is designed to limit the defendant’s criminal exposure while allowing the state to earn a conviction.
If the prosecution has an ironclad case, the state may not be inclined to make an offer. But it still has an incentive to make a deal. In a plea bargain, the case will still be on record as a conviction and taxpayers will not pay for a trial in the overburdened justice system.
The plea bargain can take place at any stage of a DUI case, even in the middle of a trial. But most often, plea agreements happen near the beginning of the case, in the pretrial period, when the judge sets rules on how the case proceeds, scheduling court appearances and more.
The prosecution will consider prior DUI convictions and other issues in determining if a plea bargain will be offered or a defense offer will be rejected.
The art of negotiating a DUI plea bargain
For a successful plea agreement, the defense attorney’s skill and in-depth knowledge of the DUI law involved are paramount.
Under the discovery procedures, the prosecution must share all its evidence with the defense. The defense attorney must scrutinize the police report searching for errors and omissions and the other evidence the state has collected, such as breathalyzer test results. Skilled defense attorneys will also conduct their own probes of the case to develop mitigating circumstances and interview any witnesses the prosecution might have to determine character and their memory of the event they saw.
Plea bargaining procedure
Plea negotiations are discussed by the state and defense attorneys on the phone or in the prosecutor’s office. When a plea agreement is reached, it is submitted to the judge assigned to the case as a recommendation. Judges are not required to accept plea agreements, but, as we note from the statistics reported above, they routinely approve the proposed deal.
Levels of DUI charges
Defendants who tested at the base blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent may have a good chance of reducing the charge to reckless driving, often called a “wet reckless,” if it is the defendant’s first DUI and the person has a clean record otherwise. A plea bargain avoids the stigma of a DUI conviction and avoids suspension of the driver’s license.
If the BAC level is 0.15, which is an extreme DUI, the defense will seek to reduce the level of that charge by arguing that it is the defendant’s first offense and the driver did not cause harm or damage, along with any other mitigating factors.
A second DUI offense within seven years of the first brings more trouble. Sometimes an older prior conviction can be negotiated away, which can significantly reduce jail.
Reducing an aggravated DUI, which is a felony, to a class 1 misdemeanor DUI will save a lifetime of harm. However, this is extremely rare and difficult to do. You will still be able to vote and have a firearm, serve on a jury, and you will not have a felony conviction following you through life.
Confidential legal advice
Being charged with a DUI is serious and a conviction has long-term impacts. It is crucial that you have skilled legal representation as quickly as possible to protect your rights and learn exactly what your situation is and what your legal options are.
You can do that by scheduling a consultation without any obligation to use Aaron M. Black Law to defend you and to achieve the best plea bargain possible through aggressive representation.
Make an appointment
To schedule your consultation, call 480-729-1683 at any time, day or night, weekends or holidays and I will promptly respond unless I am in court. Or use my online contact form.
During the pandemic, we can meet online using FaceTime and discuss your plea agreement using text and email. I have built a strong record of aggressively defending clients and providing personalized legal services, so you will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant.
I defend DUI charges and negotiate plea bargains in the justice, municipal, state and federal courts in Maricopa and its surrounding counties.
Going to trial for a DUI charge in Arizona is an uncertainty. We can never be sure how jurors will weigh the evidence, the facts of the case, and the testimony to reach a verdict.
Plea bargaining agreements eliminate the uncertainty. For both sides.
About the Author
Aaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.
Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes and white-collar crime.
After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.
After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.
Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.
You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.