In an Arizona DUI case, there are typically three ways for the DUI case to resolve. One way is for a plea agreement to be reached, and the case will thus end with the defendant entering a plea of "guilty" on a certain charge or charges. Another way for the case to resolve is through a trial (either in front of a jury, or a Judge alone). Finally, the case could also end as a result of a dismissal, which is when the charge(s) that the State filed against the defendant is/are dismissed (and which can occur for numerous reasons).
In this three-part blog series, we will examine each of these three ways that an Arizona DUI case can resolve.
Plea Agreements - A Background
First, we will be discussing plea agreements, which are an integral part of the criminal justice process. By way of background, a plea agreement is an offer by the prosecutor to attempt to resolve a criminal case short of a trial.
There can be benefits to both the prosecutor and the defendant with a plea agreement. On the State's side, if a case can be resolved sooner and short of a trial, it saves the State extra expenses in pursuing the case. Further, it may also be a way of resolving a case that may not be a 'slam dunk' for the prosecutor while still earning the State a conviction of some sort.
On the defendant's side, one advantage of a plea agreement is that, typically, a plea agreement will give the defendant a resolution that would be a better outcome than if he or she proceeded to trial and lost (and sometimes, it can be a very good resolution). Further, a plea agreement would offer the defendant a way to resolve his or her case without undergoing the stress of a trial. Overall, plea agreements can be extremely useful and helpful in many types of criminal cases.
Pleas in AZ DUI Cases
In Arizona DUI cases, however, many times the plea agreement offered by the prosecutor essentially asks the defendant to plead to the highest charge, and the State will then dismiss any and all lesser included DUI charge(s), and generally any included civil traffic violations. Yet, on other occasions, a skilled Arizona DUI attorney can point out the legal issues and defects in the case to the prosecutor and get a better offer- either to a lower DUI charge or sometimes even to a non-DUI resolution (such as a criminal traffic charge).
Taking a plea is something that is always in the defendant's discretion. If the defendant is not willing to take a plea agreement, generally the case will proceed to trial (which we will examine in Part 2 of this series).
Thus, one needs a skilled and experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney on his or her side to work to negotiate the best plea agreement possible, and provide him or her with advice on the plea offered.