Should I Plead Guilty To First-Offense DUI?

There Is No Penalty For Pleading “Not Guilty”

I have been providing free consultations as a DUI attorney in Orange County for nearly 20 years. One of the most common misconceptions held by those accused of DUI is that the judge will “hold it against them” if they plead “not guilty” to a DUI charge. The fear is that the judge will be harsher on a person who initially denies guilt  instead of owning up to their mistake right away–a concept ingrained in most of us by our parents and our community.  But when it comes to the criminal justice system, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the judge is strictly prohibited from punishing a defendant for exercising their Constitutional right to make the State prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. A plea of “not guilty” by you or your DUI lawyer merely means that you are not surrendering your rights at this time. In fact, an ill-considered guilty plea is the number one cause of suffering punishment that could have been avoided.

Benefits Of A “Not Guilty” Plea

Typically, almost all DUI cases look rock solid to the untrained eye. But your DUI defense attorney needs time to look beneath the surface to find any flaws in your case. Pleading “not guilty” at the arraignment affords your DUI lawyer the time to issue subpoenas and gather  important evidence. This “discovery” phase of a DUI case is where your DUI lawyer gets a complete look at the evidence the DA intends to use against you and determine the legal sufficiency and admissibility of that evidence.

For example, consider the panicked defendant who pleads guilty right away and says “but my blood-alcohol was way over the legal limit”. If only they, or their DUI defense lawyer, had subpoenaed the calibration records for the breath testing device they may have learned that the machine in their case had not been properly calibrated. Moreover, the breath test must be performed in a specific manner in order to rule out contamination by “mouth alcohol”. An improperly performed breath test, or the use of a machine not properly calibrated, are grounds for your attorney to have that evidence suppressed and possibly have the case dismisses. In this way, seemingly iron clad cases are sometimes dismantled by a skilled DUI defense lawyer.

Another example is in my recent case of People v. Dan E. (case results) Dan had been at a party. One of the men at the party called 911 and reported that Dan was starting fights at the party. They gave a description of Dan and his license plate number. The police responded and, as they entered the housing area, they saw Dan at the red light, leaving the area. The officer pulled behind Dan’s car and aimed his spotlight through Dan’s rear window. The officer then walked to Dan’s window. While speaking with Dan, the officer smelled alcohol. After field sobriety tests Dan was arrested for DUI and his blood-alcohol was above 0.20%.

Dan was pretty sure he was just going to plead guilty to first-offense DUI but I suggested he try to have the evidence suppressed because the stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion. The judge granted my suppression motion and the case was dismissed.

Free Telephonic Consultation With An Orange County DUI Lawyer

If you have been charged with DUI it is essential that, at the very least, you consult with one or more DUI lawyers in Orange County. At The Law Office of EJ Stopyro we offer a free and confidential telephonic consultation and case review. Call us at (949) 559-5500 today. Our main office is at 32072 Camino Capistrano, 2nd floor, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. We also have meeting offices in Newport Beach and Orange.

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