How Often Do DUI Cases Go to Trial in California?
September 8, 2022 | Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law
A very small percentage of DUI cases go to trial in California. Most cases settle through plea bargains.
However, you should treat your drunk driving charge as if it is going to trial by hiring an experienced San Jose DUI defense lawyer. The last thing you want to do is be unprepared if you need to go to court for a DUI case.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between the defense and the prosecution to resolve a criminal charge. Generally, the prosecutor agrees to a reduced sentence and/or charges in exchange for a guilty plea. A plea bargain avoids the risk of going to trial for a DUI charge.
Sometimes, a plea agreement is the best option for resolving a DUI. For example, suppose your chemical test produced a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit for driving under the influence. In that case, a San Jose DUI lawyer might be able to negotiate a plea deal that could avoid some of the harshest penalties you would face if you went to trial and lost.
DUI penalties could include:
- Three to five years of probation
- Jail time in county jail or prison
- Fines and assessments that cost thousands of dollars
- Drivers’ license suspension or revocation
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
- Attendance at DUI school
- Mandatory attendance at DUI programs, such as the Morgue and Hospital Program or MADD’s Victim Impact Panel
Sometimes, a defense lawyer may plead a DUI down to a wet reckless charge. Even though the wet reckless counts against you for subsequent DUI convictions, the penalties and collateral consequences of a wet reckless are not as severe as a DUI conviction.
You cannot be forced to accept a plea deal if you are charged with a DUI offense. Instead, you have the right to take your case to court. However, before accepting a deal or deciding to go to trial for a DUI offense, weigh the pros and cons with an experienced San Jose DUI attorney.
Potential DUI Defenses You Can Use in Plea Bargaining and at Trial
Prosecutors may be willing to accept a DUI plea bargain when their case is weak or you have one or more potential DUI defenses that could raise reasonable doubt at a DUI trial. Potential defenses your attorney investigates include, but are not limited to:
Challenging Chemical Test Results
California’s implied consent law requires that you take a chemical test for BAC levels after a lawful DUI arrest. Refusing a chemical test results in an administrative driver’s license suspension. You also serve additional jail time for a DUI conviction.
However, there are several defenses to explain a high BAC level on a breath test or blood test. Potential defenses include:
- Rising blood alcohol levels
- Residual mouth alcohol
- Inability to provide a deep lung breath sample
- Medical conditions, such as diabetes, GERD, acid reflux, and hiatal hernia
- Use of fermented blood to perform the test
- Failure to calibrate and maintain breathalyzer machines
- Failing to monitor the individuals for the required period before performing a breath test
- Violations of Title 17 regulations for collecting, testing, and storing samples for chemical tests
When your BAC level is right at the legal limit, your attorney may argue the overall accuracy of chemical tests and individual factors that could provide reasonable doubt your BAC was above the legal limit.
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion or Probable Cause
A police officer must have reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop. Likewise, the officer must have probable cause for a DUI arrest. If the officer makes an unlawful stop or arrest, the court could rule that any evidence collected is inadmissible.
Driving Abilities Not Impaired
If the prosecutor does not have a chemical test proving your BAC level was above the legal limit, it must prove that you were driving “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs. That means your ability to operate the motor vehicle safely was impaired by the alcohol or drugs in your system.
Your attorney may attack the evidence of your impairment by providing evidence your poor driving ability or “failed” field sobriety tests can be blamed on another reason. For example, you had a medical condition that caused you to appear to be impaired. Another explanation could be that you had finished working a long shift and were tired.
The DUI defenses you use depend on the facts of your case. The prosecutor nor the police officers tell you if you have a DUI defense or the case against you is weak. Instead, you need a lawyer to analyze your case to determine your defense options.
Contact Our DUI Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law Today For Help.
Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law – San Jose Office
1922 The Alameda #201, San Jose, CA 95126
Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law – Redwood City Office
600 Allerton St Suite 201G, Redwood City, CA 94063