Every state treats drunk driving offenders differently. In Virginia, approximately 32% of all traffic fatalities in 2019 were alcohol-related. To reduce fatalities, Virginia imposes strict penalties on drivers convicted of operating their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In some cases, this commitment to preventing intoxicated driving can result in overzealous law enforcement agents improperly charging innocent drivers with driving under the influence (DUI).
Most drunk driving charges are resolved through a DUI plea deal instead of going to trial. However, that does not mean you should accept the first plea agreement you receive. An attorney at the Law Offices of Michael Pignone can walk you through the basics of a DUI plea deal and determine whether the prosecution’s plea offer will minimize the consequences of your charges. Contact us today.
DUI Charges in Virginia
Virginia prohibits anyone from driving or operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08%. Additionally, Virginia prohibits anyone from driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. For drivers under the age of 21, Virginia law outlaws driving or operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .02%.
Virginia imposes severe penalties for DUI convictions, even if it is your first alcohol-related conviction. A first-time DUI conviction carries the possibility of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, license revocation, installation of an ignition interlock device, and mandatory completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program at your own expense. Also, you will face more severe penalties if you receive another DUI conviction within ten years of your first conviction.
What Are DUI Plea Bargains?
A plea bargain is a negotiation between the prosecution and the defendant. Typically, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a certain charge or charges and waives their right to a jury trial in exchange for a reduced sentence or charge. The criminal justice system would grind to a halt if even half of criminal defendants refused to accept a plea bargian. The efficiency of the American legal system depends on a majority of cases ending with a plea agreement. Prosecutors are often more motivated to offer a favorable plea bargain when they know there are weaknesses in their case.
Advantages of a Plea Bargain
Many people hesistate to accept a plea bargain and sacrifice their right to a trial. However, taking a plea can offer several advantages.
Some advantages of a DUI plea deal could include:
- Knowing what penalites will be imposed on you before you sign,
- Removing the uncertainty of going to trial,
- Reducing or avoiding jail time,
- Keeping your driving privileges, and
- Suffering less harm to your reputation.
Even if you think your case is a slam dunk, juries are unpredictable. If you go to trial, there is always a risk the jury will find you guilty. In most cases, a guilty verdict will result in a lengthier sentence than the sentence imposed by a plea deal.
Types of DUI Plea Deals
In some cases, the prosecution may let you plead guilty to reckless driving charges instead of DUI. Virginia defines reckless driving as driving over 85 miles per hour or driving 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. A reckless driving conviction will not result in losing your driving privileges or the installation of an ignition interlock device. However, the conviction will remain on your criminal record for eleven years.
The seriousness of drunk driving offenses makes prosecutors less willing to reduce charges. Still, some prosecutors will offer to reduce a DUI to a reckless driving charge for the right candidate. An ideal candidate for a favorable plea offer will have:
- Little or no prior criminal record,
- A clean driving history,
- A calm and respectful demeanor during the stop, and
- Not been involved in an accident.
Every DUI case is unique and may require a different approach. An experienced Virginia DUI attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf and attempt to negotiate a plea agreement for reckless driving.
How Can I Bolster My Chances of Receiving a Favorable DUI Plea Deal?
You can demonstrate your commitment to satisfying the terms of a plea agreement by completing certain activities before your plea is finalized. For example, many judges will order a defendant accused of drunk driving to participate in panels hosted by Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD). You can attend these panels before your sentencing to show the judge that you plan to satisfy the conditions of your plea.
Alternatively, you can introduce evidence of a valid legal defense that makes it more difficult for the prosecution to meet their burden of proof. If a prosecutor knows they have a weak case, they may agree to a plea agreement to avoid losing at trial. Some common legal defenses in DUI cases include:
- The traffic stop leading to the DUI was illegal and violated your rights,
- The testing equipment malfunctioned,
- The officer failed to give you the required implied consent advisement,
- There is proof you were not operating the vehicle, and
- The breath or blood test was improperly administered.
A DUI attorney can help you understand these legal defenses and determine if one applies to your DUI case. Then, your attorney will prepare a strategy to introduce proof of your legal defense to the prosecutor and negotiate for a favorable plea bargain.
Contact an Attorney Today for Assistance Obtaining a Favorable DUI Plea Deal
Attorney Michael Pignone and his team at the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone have over 20 years of experience advocating for clients charged with DUI in Virginia. DUI charges can affect your freedom, your family, and your livelihood. When so much is at stake, you need an attorney with a thorough understanding of Virgina’s DUI laws. While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome in your case, our ability to obtain positive results on a consistent basis speaks for itself.
Contact a DUI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone online or by phone to start your free consultation.