Should I Plead Guilty to DWI?

During our initial consultations with our clients, many often ask whether they should plead guilty to a DWI charge. After all, they have had a few drinks before driving and law enforcement repeatedly tells them that they have an ample amount of evidence necessary to obtain a conviction. However, just because they feel guilty doesn’t necessarily mean that they actually are.

What to Do at Arraignment

During an arraignment, the defendant will be asked to plead to the charge. The options are typically guilty, no contest, or not guilty.

By pleading guilty to drunk driving in North Carolina, you leave your freedom at the whim of the courts and your driving privileges in the hands of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In addition to serving the maximum penalty, the defendant may automatically lose the option to figure out whether there are any potential legal defendants to the DWI charge.

If the defendant pleads not guilty, the judge will set another court date referred to as the pre-trial, which will often e before another judge and in another courtroom. Furthermore, the defendant has time to hire a lawyer and thoroughly review the arrest and the charges. The attorney can investigate the arrest, review the prosecution’s evidence, and determine if there is a strong defense available to the charges. The lawyer can advise the defendant on the best course of action, depending on whether he/she may be able to prove the defendant’s innocence, have the case dismissed, or have the charges reduced through a plea bargain.

Plea bargaining is the process where a defendant (or the defendant’s lawyer) and the prosecutor reach a compromise. The defendant enters guilty or no contest plea in exchange for a reduced charge, fine, or jail sentence, while the prosecutor obtains a conviction without going to trial. A better plea bargain can be obtained when there are some weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. By contrast, if the evidence of guilt is compelling, then the defendant’s bargaining power diminishes.

So even if you believe that you were over the legal limit of .08 at the time of your DWI arrest, doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance of getting a reduced sentence or your case dismissed. For more information, contact our Raleigh criminal defense lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh today.


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