Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) or drugs (DUI drugs) can lead to serious DUI penalties if you are convicted. It can also lead to serious DUI collateral consequences that follow and negatively affect you throughout your life. These two "types" of penalties create a problem:
- do you fight the charge and hope for an acquittal at trial but risk the more serious penalties and collateral consequences; or
- do you take the "safer" route and accept a plea deal, meaning you plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a lighter sentence but give up your right to defend yourself?
In Chicago, this can be conflicting for some people. On the one hand, they want to fight in the hopes they will not end up with a criminal record. On the other hand, they want to accept a plea bargain to get the case done and over with in exchange for a lesser crime and a reduced sentence.
Police will often say that by accepting the plea deal for your DUI charge, the matter will be resolved sooner and you:
- will be able to get back to your life sooner;
- will have less, if any, jail time;
- will have a less serious offense on your criminal record;
- will experience less peer scrutiny and social stigma (DUI convictions carry a heavy social stigma – a DUI arrest alone carries a serious stigma even though you are innocent until proven guilty);
- will avoid a long, emotionally and financially stressful trial; and
- will avoid the publicity that a DUI trial nurtures.
Though the above-listed reasons are relatively true, there is another side of the plea bargain you must consider.
What are the consequences of a DUI plea bargain in Chicago?
The negative consequences of a DUI plea bargain can be significant when offered by a prosecutor in Cook County, Dupage County, or any other county throughout Illinois. You should consider the potential for negative consequences in light of the above-listed "positive" consequences.
First, when you accept a plea deal, you still have to plead guilty to a crime, and that always leads to the creation of a new criminal record or the addition of another crime to an existing criminal record. Neither scenarios are good.
Second, when you have a criminal record or one with a recent conviction, it can make things like the following difficult to achieve:
- obtaining a loan,
- getting financial aid,
- securing a loan,
- applying for housing,
- being offered a good job, or
- maintaining custody of a child.
Third, you give up your right to defend yourself before your peers. You have a constitutional right to defend yourself. You have a constitutional right to an attorney to represent you. You owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you avoid jail. A trial gives you your day in court, and with strategic preparation, you stand a fighting chance of an acquittal.
Of course, each situation is unique and in some circumstances, the benefits of a plea bargain may outweigh its detrimental effects. That's why you should always seek the counsel of an experienced Chicago DUI attorney.