In DUI cases where you are pleading not guilty, the process goes as follows.
After pleading not guilty at the Arraignment, we usually have Discovery. Discovery is when both sides present all the evidence that they intend on presenting before the jury, as required by law. A good lawyer will have a Motion of Discovery (a legal document requesting the Discovery phase) ready prior to even getting to an Arraignment.
Once you initiate Discovery, you look at all the evidence presented by the prosecution. If there is evidence you believe should not be admitted because it is unfairly prejudicial or unlawfully obtained or otherwise not appropriate for admission as evidence, you file Motions to exclude or invalidate certain pieces of evidence.
Once all relevant pieces of evidence are excluded or invalidated, you can decide whether you have a strong enough case to try before a jury. In most cases, it is better for the client not to have to go to trial. Therefore, during this time, you should be trying to work out a deal with the prosecution that will meet the client’s needs but avoid going to trial.
What Are Some Potential Defense Strategies Used in DUI Cases?
Many of our defense strategies are fairly simple but quite effective. They include filing Motions, having a good relationship with the District Attorney’s office, and simply being up to date with DUI Law.
How Can Standardized Field Sobriety Testing or Chemical Tests Help in the Defense of a DUI Case? What Should A Test Look Like?
When you are pulled over by the police for a DUI, and the officer asks you to take a state administered blood test for blood alcohol content, you are not required to take that test. In fact, you have a constitutional right not to consent to take that test. If you do not consent to take the blood test, and the officer arrests you, then they may also try to take a breath sample from a machine at the station that is admissible in court, as opposed to the PBT test on the side of the road. You have a constitutional right not to take ANY tests.
The question of whether the police gave you a state administered test is hugely important for us as DUI defense attorneys. This will factor into whether we believe your case is defensible, and whether it is going to be a hard case or a simpler case.
If the prosecution presents state administered tests that show blood alcohol content over the legal limit, and we cannot get that evidence thrown out during Discovery, it poses a massive problem. It is exceedingly difficult to move forward with a jury trial with that evidence on the table. In the end, all the prosecution must prove to the jury is that the defendant has driven a car and that they had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. If they have a state administered test showing same, it is very difficult for us to disprove.
At What Point in a DUI Case Does the Prosecutor Generally Offer a Plea Deal?
If you are a good attorney, then you should be able to start working the case out in the lower court within the first few months. For a first time DUI plea, this usually entails trying to get the DUI reduced to reckless driving. This would be your “plea deal.” Our strategy is generally to offer that plea deal to the DA’s Office (“the Prosecutor”) rather than the other way around.
There are many benefits to taking a plea deal for reckless driving instead of proceeding forward with a DUI charge. A reckless driving charge doesn’t involve many of the worst pitfalls of a DUI, such as raised insurance rates, potential fines and penalties, and even just having a DUI on your record. In the State of Georgia, once you have a DUI on your record, it is there for good. This can have repercussions for getting certain driving-related jobs, and especially if you get another DUI or driving-related charge. Therefore, what we are trying to do as a first step in the lower court level is to get your DUI charge reduced to reckless driving.
It should be noted that a reckless driving is usually not simply a slap on the wrist. The punishment for reckless driving is currently around 12 months’ probation, a fine (usually around $450-$650), recommended drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment, DUI School, and 40 hours of community service. However, for a second DUI, you could be looking at much steeper penalties, including mandatory jail time and license suspension. These charges may be reduced if you have a good enough attorney, but that is a bridge people with multiple DUIs cross when they get to it.
If you are being charged with a DUI for the first time, though, the first step is to try to get your DUI reduced to a guilty plea for reckless driving. However, if the DA refuses to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea, and/or the client does not want to take the guilty plea, we start thinking about whether we have a chance of arguing the case successfully in court.
Are Prosecutors Willing to Reduce, Mitigate or Drop DUI Charges in Georgia?
There are currently no diversion programs for DUIs in Georgia, so a reduction of that sort is generally off the table. In addition, while the DA’s Office for the State of Georgia and/or Chatham County may offer a reduction to reckless driving for some first-time DUI offenders, they will not usually reduce a DUI to anything lower than reckless driving unless the charges involve a bad stop or a truly baseless case.
Usually, the DA’s office look at the evidence (including police video, the police report, and sometimes BAC tests) and consider the reputation of the attorney the client has hired. DA’s do not like to lose. They generally know whether an attorney is going to present a challenge to them if they force the case to trial by denying a plea. In the average case, this makes the DA’s Office less likely to deny a sentence reduction from DUI to reckless driving if the attorney representing the defendant has a strong reputation for winning jury trials.
For more information on Entering A Plea Of Not Guilty In A DUI Case, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (912) 236-4878 today.
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