What Happens If You Lose a DUI Trial?

What Happens If You Lose a DUI Trial

People who are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other substances encounter many questions and concerns after their arrest. From making bond to finding qualified legal representation to finding transportation, it can be a difficult time for anyone.

One of the biggest questions someone facing a DUI trial must answer is whether to plead innocent and fight the charge, or plead guilty and deal with potentially less severe penalties. The answer to this question depends on each person and the facts of their case.

Can you fight your DUI charge?

While being found guilty can have consequences, that shouldn’t matter if someone is truly innocent of a DUI and/or there are valid concerns about the charge. Everyone has rights under the law and deserves a fair trial. For a DUI charge, working with a qualified and experienced attorney can ensure you receive a thorough investigation of the facts of your case.

In some clear-cut situations, an attorney may advise that a guilty plea is the best course of action. This is particularly true if the prosecutor is willing to reduce the charge to a lesser offense or offer a less severe penalty.

In other cases, going to trial and fighting your DUI charge may be legally advisable. For example, there may be evidence that proves your innocence of the charge, or an attorney discovers a weakness in the prosecution’s case.

Ultimately, deciding to fight a DUI charge is a personal decision, but a qualified defense attorney can help you make it on an informed basis. Your attorney can talk you through all of the procedures before, during, and after a trial. He or she can also help you weigh the consequences of fighting and losing a trial versus accepting a plea offer or lesser penalties.

Understanding DUI Penalties if You Lose a Trial

The law enforcement and legal systems are weighted toward getting people to not fight their charges. Many DUI defendants report being made to feel like they were guilty from the time of their arrest.

Additionally, while DUI penalties are severe to deter dangerous drunk driving, it also has the effect of making people less likely to fight their charges, even if there is a problem with the case. For example, under Florida Statutes, section 316.193, the penalties for a first-time DUI conviction are:

  • Imprisonment not to exceed six months, or nine months if there was a minor in the vehicle or the blood alcohol level (BAC) was above .15
  • Loss of license for a minimum of 180 days
  • A fine of no less than $500, but no more than $1,000
  • A fine of no less than $1,000, but not to exceed $2,000, if the driver’s BAC was above .15

These penalties increase with repeat offenses or in cases of property damage, injury, or death. While every case is different, it is possible that losing a trial could result in harsher sentencing depending on factors like the judge, the amount and quality of evidence, and any previous criminal records.

Another reason many DUIs don’t go to a full trial is that prosecutors may choose to reduce the DUI to a lesser charge such as reckless driving involving alcohol under certain conditions. This can include no previous arrests or convictions for DUI and no property damage.

Reasons to Fight a DUI Charge

The fact is that while many DUI cases do not go to trial, there is no such thing as a “slam-dunk” case for prosecutors. Factors that could lead to a not-guilty verdict in a DUI trial include:

  • Invalid traffic stop — the officer must see you driving and you must commit a clear moving violation
  • Insufficient probable cause for impaired or reckless driving
  • Failure to properly explain or administer a field sobriety test (FST)
  • Documented rights violation
  • Failure to properly administer a breathalyzer test
  • Failure to observe the defendant prior to blood alcohol testing
  • Miscalibrated or malfunctioning breathalyzer equipment
  • Contradictory witness testimony
  • Contradictory video or written evidence

These are just some examples of what any DUI defense attorney should be looking for when conducting pre-trial discovery investigations. In far too many situations, defendants plead guilty to DUI charges when one or more of the above situations occurred.

Experienced DUI Attorneys Help Your Case

No matter what, a DUI arrest and charge is not a conviction. Whether it’s your first arrest or a subsequent arrest, you deserve a fair trial and a defense attorney who will fight for you. By fully evaluating your charge and the strength of the state’s case, your defense team needs to ensure you are being treated fairly and getting the best possible outcome.

Clark Hartpence Law attorney Jeremy Clark was a public defender in the Sixth Judicial Circuit and has an extensive understanding of the laws and penalties around DUI charges and trials. With his and our entire team’s dedicated experience, we know how to build cases to respond to arguments the state of Florida commonly uses in DUI cases.

Contact us today at (855) 680-4911 for your free consultation. A DUI arrest does not have to permanently affect your life. If fighting your charge is the best course of action, we will do everything in our power to win your DUI trial.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.