DUI Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving

We are often asked by clients charged with the offense of Driving Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (DUI, DWI, OWI) about cases where others have had a DUI offense amended to the offense of Reckless Driving by plea agreement.  A plea agreement in theory means that the defendant pleads guilty or complies with some other requirements such as payment of a fine or court costs, performance of volunteer community work, etc., in return for an agreed upon disposition.

Most plea agreements are compromise dispositions to avoid the uncertainty and expense of a hearing and/or trial.  Any plea agreement must be approved by the presiding judge to be certain the plea agreement is justified by the facts as applied to the law.  If not, the judge may reject the plea agreement.  Some of the factors reviewed by a prosecutor (in no particular order) include the:

  • Facts of the case surrounding the arrest;
  • Nature of the offense involved;
  • Anticipated credibility of the prosecution witness(es);
  • Anticipated credibility of the defense witness(es); and
  • Skill level of the defense attorney.

Accordingly, where the facts justify an amendment from the offense of DUI to the offense of Reckless Driving, a plea agreement is reached between the parties to conclude the case in that fashion.  Agreements may range from a set punishment on a plea by the defendant to the offense charged, to the prosecution dropping the case entirely.

Readers of this blog should understand that the only reason cases are amended is when the prosecution believes it has a reasonable chance of losing the case.  Obviously, the more the prosecution believes it will lose the case, the better the plea agreement that will be offered to the defendant.  The prosecution does not want to waste time or effort attempting to convict somebody when the chances of doing so are minimal.  Plea agreements are not made on the basis of other factors such as relationships or friendships between the officers, lawyers or judges. Accordingly, a defendant should be wary of hiring a DUI attorney who makes such promises.