DUIs are extremely common. They are usually misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail and over $4000 in fines and fees, plus issues with the DMV. Reality is that the prosecutors want the cases to resolve quickly so they give offers to resolve the case. Maybe the offer is good, maybe it is bad. An experienced attorney representing your interests will let you know. the court will not let you know, and the prosecutor will not let you. They may encourage you to take whatever offer they give, but that is not a good idea in most situations.
What I am about to say in no way undermines the value of having legal representation in criminal court. There are many issues that an attorney watches out for you, and has your best interests at heart. Attorneys see problems that you would not even know needed to be fixed. Attorneys explain to you what the judge means, what is happening, what the issues are, what you need to balance and consider in making decisions about your case, negotiates and fights for your position, to protect your rights and get the best resolution to your criminal case, among many other things.
However, the fact that you have an attorney that fights for you does not does not mean that you will win at trial. It does not mean that your case will magically be dismissed. The best criminal defense attorneys still have a majority of clients who plead guilty. Granted, that is not how they market their services. And it is not what people want to hear. However, the reality is that your attorney will fight for you, and will probably get you a much better resolution to your case than you would have gotten on your own, but that probably includes pleading guilty to something.
Realize this, that most cases never go to trial. Statistically, almost nothing goes to trial. For example, in West Justice Center, about a week ago, the Orange County District Attorney had 41 misdemeanor cases set for trial on the same day. The court does not even have half that many courtrooms. Consider that on that same day, there were hundreds of new criminal misdemeanor cases set for arraignment, maybe almost a hundred continued cases set for pretrial conferences, plus more cases continued for arraignment, and one or two cases actively in jury trial, if at all, in that courthouse on that day. This does not include felonies and infractions. (Fewer felonies but they are more involved. Way more infractions, but they are less involved.)
Percentage wise, less than 2% of all cases ever go to trial. And a much smaller percentage actually proceed with trial. This statistic is generally used in reference to all types of legal cases, not criminal alone. However, based on the numbers above, one can clearly see that if even one percent of all criminal cases actually proceeded with trial, the District Attorney’s Office and the Courts would be overwhelmed. Consider one new trial starting every day in the courthouse. The courthouse would be full of jurors waiting to be selected. The shortest DUI trials, for example, may take two days if any one courtroom gave all of its resources to that trial alone, all day, and all parties were ready to proceed and there were no interesting issues. The numbers just do not allow jury trials happen.
DUIs are not an exception. Most DUIs resolve by the defendant pleading guilty. No honest attorney would tell you otherwise. I heard a certain radio advertisement from an attorney’s office that has a catchy phrase. I like the phrase. It is brilliant marketing. It is exactly what people want to hear. Without being too direct, it is about if someone is your friend that they would not let a friend plead guilty. Well, I understand what he is portraying; it is what people want to hear. They do not want to plead guilty. And nobody wants to hire an attorney that starts the conversation with, “I’m your attorney. You will probably plead guilty.”
What a good attorney will do for you is explain the legal process, your rights, listen to you concerns, look for ways to fight your case, look for defenses, find holes in the prosecutions case, and keep you informed along the way. A good attorney is also valuable because they go to court for you, without you having to worry about. This saves you time and resources. The truth is that cases usually do not resolve right away, they take some time. The court does not allow attorneys to set cases too soon because the court’s calendar is booked in advance. Case take time for many reasons and your life does not wait around, but keeps going. Leaving the burden on your attorney is golden. Your attorney will discuss options with you once there are developments in your case.
There are ways to suppress the prosecution’s evidence against you. There are multiple ways to negotiate. There are different ways and sources for seeking favorable resolutions to your case. Maybe your case is ripe for trial. Maybe your attorney got you a great plea-bargain that outweighs the risk of trial. You just cannot know these things until an attorney takes a good look at your case and talks to you about it.
In the meantime, keep yourself informed, enjoy life and family, and work hard.