Statistically, only a small percent of Washington DUI cases go all the way to trial each year
But from time-to-time, a person might decide they have nothing to lose by allowing a jury of 6 people decide their guilt or innocence. That was the situation I had this week in the Redmond District Court. My client, a veteran with no other history, elected to have his case decided by a jury as he felt he had nothing to lose.
What to do when the only offer is to plead guilty as charged on a first offense DUI?
The idea that every first offense DUI case gets plead down to reckless driving or negligent driving is misguided. It is very common the only offer from the prosecutor is to plead guilty as charged. If a person has no prior arrests and their case is absent any aggravating factors (accident, passengers, bad attitude), they stand a good chance of being sentenced to the mandatory minimums after they are convicted by a jury. So it begs the question: Why plead guilty to DUI if you could take your chances at trial and even if you are found guilty get the same result as accepting the prosecutor's offer?
That was the situation of my client's case this week. For the past year and a half after his arrest in May in 2011, I had worked tirelessly in working his case through the legal process. Initially, I tried to convince the prosecutor to agree to a reduction. When that did not work out, I filed several motions to suppress evidence and had a motions hearing back in July. After another failed attempt at negotiations at a readiness hearing, the case proceeded to trial on Tuesday morning.
This was not an easy case. There was a breath test close to .15 that was coming in as evidence. There were two law enforcement officers involved in the stop and investigation, one of them being a 28 year veteran of the State Patrol. The odds were way against us from the start.
Having their "day in court" is important to some drivers
After hearing the government's witnesses, my client wanted to take the stand. He wanted the opportunity to tell his version of the incident- from start to finish. And he did a magnificent job. But that alone was not enough to overcome the substantial evidence against my client.
We proceeded immediately to sentencing after the verdict. The actual sentence imposed was better than had he just plead guilty as the fine was about $1000 less than normal. More importantly, even though my client was disappointed by the verdict, he felt at peace with the outcome and knowing that he had given it his best shot and had his day in court.
At Wolff Defense, we will never give up fighting for our clients
Some attorneys have "trial fees" which require a person to pay additional money if they want to have their DUI charge decided by a jury of their peers. At Wolff Defense, we never want our clients to feel as if they need to plead guilty because they cannot afford additional fees. Our fee is flat and covers everything from start until finish. We offer a free initial consultation to anyone accused of DUI and the attorneys are available 7 days a week at 425-284-2000.