Should You Take Your DWI Case To Trial?
Everyone accused of a crime has the right to a trial before a judge or a jury of their peers. Trials take time and cost money, however, so it's pretty common for defendants to take plea deals to save both. If you're trying to decide whether to take what the prosecutor is offering or to roll the dice with a trial, here are two things to consider.
What are the Potential Penalties If Convicted?
One thing that definitely should factor into your decision is what type of punishment could be levied against you if you were convicted by a jury. Some states have mandatory minimums for DUI charges. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the minimum sentence for a first-tier first offense DUI charge is 6 months' probation, a $300 fine, drug and alcohol treatment, and the completion of DUI classes.
So, whether you opt to take a plea deal or go to a jury trial, you'll be facing the same types of consequences. Thus, it may be better to go to trial because there is a chance you could have evidence thrown out or convince a jury to side with you and obtain a not-guilty verdict.
On the other hand, in some states, the potential penalties of a jury conviction are far worse than what the prosecutor may offer in a plea deal. A first offense in Georgia comes with a minimum jail term of 10 days, but you could be sentenced to spend up to a year behind bars if convicted in court. In this case, you may want to stick to a plea deal if factors in your case (e.g., prior DUIs) indicate you may get harsher treatment by a judge or jury.
How Strong Is the Prosecutor's Case?
The strength of the prosecutor's case against you is another thing you need to consider, but it can be challenging to determine just how weak or strong it is. Sometimes plea deals are offered to cover up the fact that the prosecutor's case is shaky, especially if the deal seems generous or too good to be true. The prosecutor is hoping you'll take the offer so they can avoid going to court because they know they will lose if they do.
However, the opposite is true too. If the prosecutor is confident he or she can convict you during a trial, the person is less likely to be amenable to any type of negotiations for a plea deal and will often assume a "take it or leave it" attitude.
This is why it's essential you hire an attorney to help you. A DWI lawyer can evaluate the prosecutor's case and personality and let you know whether the plea deal is your best option or if a trial may net you a better outcome.
Contact a local DWI attorney to learn more.