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DUI Plea Deals

The proper defense of a Maryland DUI charge is a complicated matter. A DUI/DWI defendant does not always realize this when seeing the number of Maryland DUI cases which are plead out in court, but when a DUI matter is properly worked up for trial it gets complicated and generally requires experts to come to court to help the judge or jury find the truth.

That’s not to say that all cases should be tried, on the contrary, some cases/defendants may benefit from a properly secured plea arrangement. Such cases can severely limit or completely exclude a defendant’s exposure to jail time which is generally an important goal. I recently had such a case in Carroll County Maryland with a 2nd DUI offender, still on probation for his first offense. Pretrial suppression motions were filed for trial resulting in an appropriate plea arrangement in the Circuit Court which successfully limited my client’s exposure to significant incarceration. This was a proper plea arrangement and the client was pleased with the outcome.

Conversely however, sometimes plea arrangements are entered into by counsel who may not be fully versed on DUI/DWI law and therefore said counsel may not be in a position to advance his client’s case to trial. In that case, the Defendant comes to the court in a position of weakness and can not expect to achieve the best result possible in the case.

I recently witnessed a matter in another jurisdiction where the Defendant refused to offer a breath sample for the police and the field tests that the Defendant performed (roadside gymnastics) were performed adequately. Counsel for the Defendant entered into a plea arrangement with the state, for some unknown reason and the client was “plead out.” This was not in the Defendant’s best interest, but the Defendant probably did not know any better. If counsel for a DUI Defendant is not properly educated or well versed in the administration of field sobriety testing, it can make it difficult for such a lawyer to attack the tests in open court. This writer is both certified to administer the field tests and is a certified instructor of the field sobriety tests.
Some may think that because a matter is a first offense, that the outcome doesn’t make much of a difference as long as the client does not go to jail, but this is not true. There are, often times, far reaching ramifications of such pleas in addition to the fact that if the Defendant is charged in a subsequent matter, it now becomes a second offense where jail time is a likely outcome. The point being that even a first time offense must be handled approriately in order to properly protect the Defendant’s record.

The bottom line is that while plea arrangements with the Judge and/or prosecutor can be quite helpful at appropriate times, a plea arrangement should be entered into and arrived at from a position of strength with the government (the state) and not from a position of weakness wherein the state/prosecutor does whatever it desires and the Defendant is just along for the ride.