If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in Arizona, you are facing a variety of severe consequences. This is true whether you are being charged with an “ordinary” DUI, aggravated DUI, extreme DUI, or another drunk driving-related offense.
To minimize the consequences of your DUI arrest, you have two primary options. Your first option is to fight your DUI charge in court. If your defense attorney can prevent prosecutors from proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then you are entitled to walk free.
But, in some cases, this simply won’t be possible. This is where your second option comes into play. If it appears likely that you will face a DUI conviction in court, then it may be in your best interests to negotiate a plea bargain for a reduced charge.
Pleading Guilty to a “Wet Reckless” After a DUI Arrest
In Arizona, prosecutors will consider negotiating plea deals with DUI defendants in appropriate cases. Typically, these deals involve the defendant pleading guilty to a reckless driving charge (commonly referred to as a “wet reckless”) in exchange for avoiding the risk—and consequences—of a DUI conviction at trial.
But, while it is better to have a reckless driving conviction on your record than a DUI conviction, pleading guilty to a “wet reckless” still has significant consequences in Arizona. As a result, it is critical to make an informed decision, especially since there are several ways to fight a DUI charge (including ways to fight even if you think you’re guilty).
Why Should You Consider Pleading to a Reduced Charge in an Arizona DUI Case?
Given that accepting a plea deal still means pleading guilty, deciding whether to seek a deal is not a matter you should take lightly. With that said, if you are likely to face a DUI conviction in court, accepting a plea for a reduced charge of reckless driving can have several benefits. Some of the reasons to consider pleading to a reduced charge in an Arizona DUI case include:
- Reckless Driving Carries Lesser Penalties Than DUI – While Arizona law treats both reckless driving and DUI as serious offenses, reckless driving is not as serious as DUI. By transforming your DUI case into a reckless driving case, you will reduce the maximum penalties that are on the table.
- Reckless Driving Does Not Carry an Automatic Driver’s License Suspension – If you get convicted of DUI, your driver’s license will be suspended. However, if you plead guilty to reckless driving, you may be able to protect your driver’s license at the DMV.
- Pleading to a Reduced Charge Provides a Certain Outcome – Regardless of the facts of your case, the outcome at trial is always uncertain. In contrast, when you plead guilty to reckless driving, you will know exactly what penalties you are facing, and you will be able to move on with your life.
- You Won’t Be At Risk for Prosecution As a Repeat DUI Offender – While a reckless driving conviction can serve as a “prior” for sentencing purposes, if you get arrested for DUI with a reckless driving conviction on your record you won’t be prosecuted as a repeat DUI offender. Second DUIs carry significantly enhanced penalties (including a minimum jail sentence of 30 days) under Arizona law.
- Negotiating a Plea is Likely Your Best Option if Prosecutors Have Strong Evidence Against You – If prosecutors have the evidence they need to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (and if your DUI defense lawyer cannot fight to keep this evidence out of court), then negotiating a plea could be the best alternative you have available. While it will mean dealing with consequences, it won’t mean dealing with the potentially life-altering consequences of a DUI conviction.
What Factors Do Prosecutors Consider When Negotiating Plea Deals in DUI Cases?
If you are facing a DUI in Arizona, you cannot simply ask for a reduced charge and expect to receive one. Negotiating a plea deal is a strategic process, and defendants (or their defense attorneys) must be able to present a compelling case for why prosecutors should consider agreeing to a reduced charge.
So, why might prosecutors be willing to negotiate a “wet reckless” plea instead of fighting for a DUI conviction in court? While each case presents unique considerations, some of the factors prosecutors will typically consider when evaluating potential DUI plea deals include:
- What was your blood alcohol concentration (BAC)? The higher your BAC, the less likely prosecutors are to consider a plea bargain for a reduced charge of reckless driving.
- What other evidence do prosecutors have against you? Did you “fail” the field sobriety tests? Did the officer’s body camera record you stumbling on the side of the road? The more evidence prosecutors have in their favor, the less willing they will be to negotiate a deal.
- Do you have a record? If you have a prior record of traffic violations or DUI convictions, this could also reduce your chances of securing a plea bargain that reduces your charge to reckless driving.
- Did you cause an accident or have a minor in your vehicle? If you caused an accident while driving under the influence, were driving the wrong way, or had a minor younger than 15 in your vehicle, these are all factors that can elevate your DUI to a felony offense. Prosecutors are much less likely to agree to reduced charges of reckless driving in felony DUI cases.
- Did the police violate your constitutional rights? If the police violated your constitutional rights during your traffic stop or arrest, some (or all) of the prosecution’s evidence may be inadmissible in court. If there is a chance that the judge will keep incriminating evidence out of your case, this may convince prosecutors to consider a plea—if you don’t choose to fight for a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
Learn More in a Free and Confidential Consultation
Should you seek a reduced charge in your Arizona DUI case? Contact us to find out. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Phoenix DUI defense lawyer, call 480-405-7922 or tell us how we can reach you online now.