Is It Better to Plead Guilty or Not Guilty for a DUI?


Your First Court Date

You were arrested for DUI, and now you have a citation that tells you to appear between two dates in court.  For example, it may say to appear between September 12th and September 24th.  When you appear at the courthouse, you are directed to the clerk’s office.  The clerk will ask you how you want to plead, guilty or not guilty?

How Should You Plead for a DUI?

Should you plead guilty or not guilty?  At this stage, unless an attorney has advised you otherwise, you should always plead not guilty.  Some people think this is a bad idea because it will appear you do not accept responsibility for your behavior, and the court will hold this against you.  While courts do consider acceptance of responsibility when determining an appropriate sentence, they will not hold it against you that you plead not guilty initially.

Should I Just Plead Guilty to a DUI?

The reason for this is that the judges know that it is routine to do this initially in a case before an attorney has reviewed the file.  The attorney needs to request discovery. He needs to negotiate with the prosecutor or discussed the matter with his client.  It would be malpractice for an attorney to advise his client to plead guilty before doing this investigative work.  In other words, pleading not guilty is only a formality to get a case started.

Should I Take Plea Bargain for DUI?

Whether you should take a plea bargain for a DUI is going to depend on a number of factors. 

The first factor I always tell my clients to consider is whether they want to take a risk of going to trial or not.  A plea agreement is a way of knowing what the likely sentence in your case will be without going to trial.  If you can live with those conditions, and don’t want to take the risk of going to trial and ending up with worse conditions, then a plea bargain may be a good way of accomplishing that. 

Also, you will want to consider the strength of your case.  Does the State have a solid case against you, or are there legitimate challenges you could present to the case that could result in the case being dismissed?  There may be other factors that are case specific, such as a plea deal could result in you losing your job or making you liable for damages in a civil case.  For all these and other circumstances you will want to speak to an attorney about your options.

Pretrial Settlement

Once you enter a not guilty plea, the court will set the matter for a “pretrial conference.”  You should complete all these procedures before the pretrial conference date. Then you may be able to resolve the case at the time of the pretrial conference.  The court will not bring up the fact that you plead not guilty when you appeared before the court clerk. Furthermore, your attorney can still argue that you accepted responsibility.

Talk to an Attorney

Do not enter a guilty plea to a DUI at any point without consulting with an attorney.  You may have legal defenses to the charge. The government’s case may have a defect. There may be room to negotiate with the prosecutor before entering a plea.  It is always important to consult with an attorney before entering a guilty plea.