Roughly 90% of criminal cases in the U.S. are resolved by plea bargains instead of jury trials—including DWI cases. These plea deals are essentially a compromise. By agreeing to “no contest” or pleading guilty, the defendant can possibly receive a more lenient charge or penalty. This is one way both the prosecution and the defendant (you) may benefit and the case can be wrapped up efficiently.
When does a plea bargain take place?
In a DWI case, plea bargaining can take place at any point in the process. It’s even possible to settle things with a plea bargain in the middle of a trial. For example, if the arresting officer is not able to testify, then the prosecution could offer the defendant a plea deal.
That being said, most plea bargains take place at the start of the DWI case, before it goes to court. The prosecution has an incentive to offer this kind of deal to reduce the time, effort, and energy they may put into the case and to relieve a heavy caseload.
While this may seem like a golden opportunity, you shouldn’t take them up on their offer immediately. Let an experienced DWI attorney evaluate the evidence and police report to see whether a plea deal makes sense. Typically, a plea deal benefits the prosecution; it is rarely good for the defendant. Your lawyer may find enough weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to mount a strong enough defense to get you a more favorable deal—or even a dismissal. This makes hiring the right DWI lawyer critical.
Pleas for charge reduction
The most favorable type of plea bargaining involves charge reduction. A DWI conviction can be quite severe, even if it’s a first offense. A fine of $10,000 or more, jail time, and suspension of your driver’s license are all possible penalties.
However, the prosecutor may offer to reduce your charge to reckless driving, which means:
- No jail time
- No DWI conviction on your permanent record
- A smaller fine
- A shorter license suspension or no suspension at all
This is a pretty sweet deal. But keep in mind that if the prosecutor is willing to offer this, they likely don’t feel confident in their DWI case against you.
Pleas for sentence reduction
This type of plea is less favorable, as it means that you may still have to pay a fine and/or serve jail time, and the DWI charge is added to your criminal record. At most, jail time and fines are reduced, but typically not by much, and your license is still suspended.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DWI in Clear Lake or the surrounding areas, the legal team at the Law Office of JL Carpenter can help you fight the charges. We can assess your case thoroughly to determine whether a plea bargain makes sense for you.
We specialize in defending citizens like you who have been charged with crimes related to DUI or DWI, domestic violence, drug offenses, and assault across Webster, Santa Fe, League City, Richmond, Sugar Land, Friendswood, and more. Call 713.561.5931 to discuss the details of your case today and get started fighting the charges against you.