It's late. You had a few drinks. You feel fine. You say goodbye to your colleagues in Charlottesville and head home. Little do you know a cop across the street had been waiting for the next person to leave the bar. You get into your vehicle and pull up to the traffic light, and on the red light, you turn right without using your signal. The sirens wail behind you, and so you pull over. It's your first DUI. You are handcuffed and taken to the police station. Meanwhile, your vehicle is towed. Your spouse picks you up in the morning, and on your way home, the anxiety sets in: you have been arrested for a DUI. What will this mean for your job? Your family? Your future?
So many first-time DUI offenders are scared and worried. There's the gut-wrenching thought of not being able to drive and the embarrassment and shame that follows it. Meanwhile, the threat of jail looms on the horizon. It's scary, to be sure.
But then the prosecutor offers you what you think is a lifeline: a plea deal. You sigh in relief—no trial, no jail, no worries.
But you should think twice before you accept a plea deal. They can come in all different sizes and shapes, but they all have their risks. Speaking to an experienced DUI attorney can help you know your options and to better understand what is in your best interests.
Why Plea Deals for a Virginia DUI Looks Appealing
A plea deal sounds great when your future is at stake. For many of you, you'll accept it without thinking twice, and you will do so because of its appeal factor. Benefits of a plea deal can include things like:
- being able to get back to your life quickly;
- avoiding time spent in jail;
- having a less serious offense on your criminal record—if one at all;
- avoiding a long and stressful trial; and
- avoiding the publicity that a DUI trial can produce.
These and other benefits to a plea deal are a good thing. They must, however, be taken into consideration with the disadvantages of a DUI plea deal.
Why Plea Deals for a Virginia DUI Are Risky
You may not realize it—at least not realize it at first—but a plea deal means you must still plead guilty. You may have to plead guilty to:
- the original charges,
- one charge in order to have another charge dropped, or
- reduced charges.
Any which way you do it, you still must plead guilty and accept responsibility for criminal wrongdoing. This means, of course, that you still have a criminal record that cannot be expunged—you must seek a governor's pardon, and that's a hard process to complete in your favor.
With a criminal record, you now face what we often call in the criminal defense practice: collateral consequences. These are consequences you were probably hoping to avoid with the plea deal. A criminal record can make the following difficult or impossible:
- obtaining a mortgage, auto, education, or personal loan;
- getting financial aid;
- securing or maintaining a good job;
- securing or maintaining a professional license;
- keeping a commercial driver's license;
- applying for housing; or, among other things,
- maintaining custody of a child.
Finally, when you accept that plea deal for instant (yet fleeting) gratification, you waive your right to ever again defend yourself for this specific charge. Further, if you do not follow the terms and conditions of the plea deal, you could end up in court—but not to defend yourself. You could be sent to court for sentencing, and that sentence could potentially be harsher than what you would have received if found guilty at trial.
For some people, it may make good sense to fight the charges. Yes, that may mean trial, but at trial, Bryan J. Jones will use his skills and resources to weaken the State's case against you. Keep in mind that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (or unless you plead guilty).
Don't trap yourself by accepting a plea deal before you have had an experienced DUI attorney to review the deal and outline all your options and potential outcomes to you.