If you are facing a DUI charge, you might be thinking about pleading guilty. This might seem like the easiest way to deal with your situation—especially if you got caught driving drunk.
But, pleading guilty to a DUI in Arizona can prove to be a very costly mistake. When you plead guilty, this puts a conviction on your permanent record. Not only can a DUI conviction have serious and long-term consequences, but it will be possible to avoid these consequences in many cases.
This is true even if you were drunk behind the wheel.
With this in mind, you should not plead guilty to your DUI. While this might be the easiest solution right now, it could prove extremely costly in the years to come. You owe it to yourself and your family to make smart decisions; and, even if you were driving under the influence, you may still have strong defenses available.
5 Reasons Not to Plead Guilty to a DUI Charge in Arizona
Here are five reasons not to plead guilty to a DUI charge in Arizona:
Reason #1: Arizona DUI Convictions Carry Serious Consequences
As we already mentioned, pleading guilty results in a conviction. Drunk driving convictions carry serious consequences under Arizona law. Even if you were arrested for a “regular” DUI (not an “aggravated” or “extreme” DUI), you are facing a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days along with fines, costs and surcharges, loss of your driving privileges, and various other court-imposed penalties. If you were arrested for an “aggravated” or “extreme” DUI, the penalties could be far greater.
But, these court-imposed penalties are just the start. Having a DUI conviction on your record can lead to various other consequences as well. For example, your auto insurance rates will skyrocket, and you will need to pay for alternate transportation while you aren’t allowed to drive (you will also need to pay to have your driver’s license reinstated when the time comes). Your vehicle might also be impounded—which will lead to additional costs—and you could face professional, academic, military, or immigration consequences as well.
Reason #2: Arizona DUI Convictions Aren’t Eligible for Expungement
While you might be planning to file for expungement after you plead guilty, this isn’t an option in Arizona. That’s right: In Arizona, DUI convictions are not eligible for expungement—ever. While you will eventually be able to ask a judge to “set aside” your conviction, this is up to the judge’s discretion, and setting aside your conviction does not eliminate its consequences.
Even if you eventually have your DUI conviction set aside, it can still count as a prior offense if you get arrested again. Having your conviction set aside also will not impact your record with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (MVD), and some employers will still be able to access your conviction record.
Reason #3: There Are Several Ways to Fight an Arizona DUI Charge (Even if You Were Driving Drunk)
Another reason not to plead guilty to your DUI charge is that you have defenses available. There are several ways to fight a DUI charge in Arizona—including defenses that you can assert even if you were driving drunk. As a result, even if you can’t deny that you were drunk behind the wheel, you could still be entitled to a “Not guilty” verdict in court.
While the defenses you have available depend on the facts of your case, some examples of potential defenses to DUI charges in Arizona include:
- You weren’t in “actual physical control” of a vehicle
- You weren’t “under the influence” of alcohol
- Your breath or blood test results are unreliable (i.e., due to an uncalibrated breathalyzer device or possible contamination of your blood sample)
- Your field sobriety test results are unreliable (i.e., due to improper testing procedures or alternate explanations for your “failure” of the tests)
- The police stopped you without reasonable suspicion or arrested you without probable cause
To be clear, you may have to assert multiple defenses to avoid a DUI conviction in Arizona. This is because prosecutors can secure a conviction by proving that you were “under the influence” or that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit. But, even with this being the case, our lawyers have helped clients successfully avoid convictions in many cases.
Reason #4: Prosecutors Must Prove Your Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Another factor to keep in mind is that prosecutors must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, regardless of whether you were driving under the influence, if prosecutors can’t prove it, you are entitled to walk free. If the prosecution’s evidence is lacking (or is inadmissible in court), then pleading guilty will subject you to the consequences of a conviction that you did not deserve.
Reason #5: Negotiating a Plea Bargain Can Substantially Reduce the Consequences of Your Drunk Driving Arrest
Finally, even if you cannot avoid a conviction entirely, you may still be able to mitigate the consequences of your arrest by negotiating a plea bargain. But, this option goes off the table once you plead guilty. In many cases, prosecutors will be willing to negotiate a plea to a “wet reckless” even when a DUI conviction in court appears likely. While pleading guilty to a “wet recklessness” still carries consequences, these consequences are nowhere near as severe as the consequences of pleading guilty to a DUI in Arizona. An experienced AZ DUI defense lawyer will be able to help you decide whether to seek a plea or fight your DUI charge in court.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an AZ DUI Defense Lawyer at The Weingart Firm
Are you facing a DUI charge in Arizona? If so, you should not plead guilty. Instead, you should discuss your case with an experienced AZ DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer at The Weingart Firm, call us at 480-405-7922 or tell us how we can contact you online now.