Guilty Pleas in New York City DWI Cases
One of the most commonly asked questions of lawyers by their clients is whether, in light of their DWI arrest, they should forgo trial on misdemeanor charges and just accept the state’s offer of plea to a DWAI-Alcohol violation. The answer, unfortunately, is it depends on numerous variables. Only by retaining an experienced DWI defense attorney can a true and accurate assessment of any offered plea by the state be ascertained.
This is partly due to the nature of criminal cases. Despite the generalization of conduct on the books as either criminal or legal, misdemeanor or felony, petty or a traffic violation, criminal cases are decided on the weight of proof establishing real or actual conduct. For example, in a DWI case, a charge of VTL § 1192(2) DWI (Pro Se DWI) at arraignment is not likely to be the charge you ultimately have at trial if a DWI defense lawyer can suppress blood alcohol content results. Nevertheless, some general information on how prosecutors often charge these cases may provide a measure of understanding of why, despite the serious penalties, fewer defense lawyers press their clients to take a guilty plea in a New York City DWI case.
What Prosecutors Must Prove in a DWI Case
The Vehicle and Traffic Law makes clear that the ability of prosecutors to charge and ultimately secure a conviction under one of New York’s many DWI offenses depends not only on the weight of evidence of drunk driving but also the type as well. For example, to obtain your conviction for DWAI-Alcohol under VTL § 1192(1), prosecutors must prove, through either circumstantial or direct evidence, your ability to drive a car was diminished, to any extent, as a result of alcohol consumption – the lesser standard of impairment. On the other hand, for a Common Law DWI conviction under VTL § 1192(3), prosecutors must prove that the consumption of alcohol had rendered you incapable of operating a motor vehicle as a reasonably safe and cautious driver would, the standard known as intoxication. But if in your case there is proof your blood alcohol content or BAC was the legal limit of .08 or higher, prosecutors can charge you with all of these offenses as well as the separate crimes of Per Se or Aggravated Per Se DWI; offenses solely concerned with your BAC as opposed to your driving condition on the roads of New York State.
In short, the more crimes prosecutors can charge you for any alleged act of criminal conduct, the better their chance of obtaining a conviction and, thus, the more appealing accepting a guilty plea becomes.
What Types of Plea Bargains May Be Available in a New York City DWI Case?
Technically, there are two types of bargaining that may occur prior to a defendant entering a guilty plea in a New York City DWI cases. The more common type of plea bargain by far is a charge bargain, which entails a defendant pleading guilty to a lesser offense—or a lesser number of offenses—than whatever they were indicted for, thereby guaranteeing a conviction but potentially avoiding steeper criminal sanctions.
In high-profile DWI cases, though, the prosecution may engage in sentence bargaining, which is informing the defendant in advance what they will be sentenced to should they choose to plead guilty. This generally only occurs in cases where the court is likely to pass down maximum penalties upon conviction, and it must be approved by a judge before it can occur.
What Happens if a Defendant Violates Terms of a Plea Bargain?
Choosing to plead guilty to a criminal offense is effectively like signing a contract in many situations. In exchange for receiving a lesser sentence and fewer subsequent sanctions, the defendant agrees to complete whatever requirements those sanctions entail, like a period of probation, community service requirements, or installing and utilizing an ignition interlock device in all personal vehicles.
If a defendant fails to adhere to the terms of their plea bargain, they may not only be subject to another arrest, but they may also end up receiving the sanctions they may have received if not for their plea bargain. Because of this, it is extremely important to work with a skilled defense lawyer when examining the terms of any guilty plea in a New York City DWI case.
What Long-Term Consequences Could a Guilty Plea Have?
Beyond just criminal sanctions, it is also important to consider what non-criminal consequences might come of a guilty plea in this type of case. For instance, anyone with a DWI conviction on their record will almost certainly have to pay significantly higher auto insurance premiums. Additionally, a DWAI conviction could have an impact on subsequent cases in family court, as well as on the consequences the defendant could face following a future DWI conviction. Finally, guilty pleas for felonies can result in the permanent loss of certain civil rights, even if they allow the defendant to avoid or minimize prison time.
Contact an Attorney Today to Discuss Guilty Pleas in a DWI Case in New York City
Agreeing to plead guilty to a reduced DWI charge in New York may be advantageous but this is not true in all cases. The attorneys at our firm are experienced legal advocates and communicate with our clients not only to advise them of the pros and cons of any offered strategy in defending DWI charges by the state but zealously work to ensure any decision that is made by the client is made under the best possible circumstances for their case. Ultimately, the only person who can make the decision on whether, or how, to contest any charge of DWI is you. Consulting with top New York City DWI attorneys as early as possible following arrest can ensure that when that decision is made, it is the right one for you. For more information on guilty pleas in New York City DWI cases, call today.