DUI charges can have a lasting impact on your life, from costing you jobs to dooming housing applications. With consequences like those, you want to present the strongest DUI defense possible, and, if you can, get the charges reduced. Here are five ways you can potentially mitigate the damage of a DUI charge.
1. Attend drunk-driving education
Many states allow those charged with DUI to complete some form of an education program in lieu of jail time, more serious charges, and other penalties. Also called DUI education classes, these programs explore the dangers of high-risk driving behaviors and the effects of alcohol and drugs on the body. In some states, an alcohol education program (AEP) is a mandatory component of a DUI sentence or probation, but other states offer it as a mitigating option. For example, some states only allow those who have completed a DUI education class to have their licenses reinstated.
2. Take a plea bargain
If there are any issues with the evidence the state is presenting, your lawyer might want to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea bargain. With a plea bargain, a prosecutor offers reduced charges and/or sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea. The state may consider a plea bargain if its case has shortcomings, such as a lack of probable cause for pulling you over or insufficient evidence due to your refusal to provide a breath or blood sample. The state may, for example, reduce your DUI charges to reckless driving with a plea. Keep in mind that, in some states, reckless driving carries harsher penalties than first-offense DUI. However, your attorney may still advise you to plead to that charge just to keep a DUI off your record.
3. Accept and complete probation
If you have no other DUI charges besides your current offense, you may be eligible for probation instead of jail or prison time. Usually, states will offer you probation if you have an otherwise-clean criminal history. In many cases, if you complete probation successfully, you will not face a DUI conviction. The terms of your probation may include:
- Receiving a substance abuse evaluation
- Attending a DUI education class
- A driver’s license suspension
- Payment of court fines
- Random drug testing
- Probation fees
- Meeting with a probation officer
4. Complete a rehabilitation program
If you have repeat offenses, you don’t have as many options for your DUI defense. Repeat DUI offenders typically face considerable jail or prison time. This may also be the case for a first-offense DUI that resulted in an accident or injury. One way to mitigate your sentence for these enhanced charges is to agree to attend an inpatient alcohol and drug rehabilitation program in lieu of a prison sentence. The court may give you the option of going to inpatient treatment for the same amount of time you would spend in jail or prison. Remember that your treatment will be court-mandated, which means you will have to finish treatment and successfully maintain sobriety to fulfill your sentence.
5. Have your DUI charges expunged
If your DUI sentence involved probation and no prison time, you might be eligible to have your DUI charges expunged upon successfully completing probation. Expungement is typically only available to first-time DUI offenders whose criminal records are otherwise clean. For instance, some states offer a deferred adjudication where the court withholds judgment and sentencing for a specified period. When that period expires, if the defendant has complied with all the conditions of probation, the DUI charge is completely expunged, or erased, from the record. Once the charge is expunged, only law enforcement will be able to see it. DUI charges don’t have to have devastating consequences. With these 5 tactics, you can mitigate the impact a DUI on your life.