DUI Plea Bargains
Arrested for DUI in Chicago? Consult an Attorney Before Accepting a Plea Bargain.
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Chicago, you should consult an attorney who has experience defending DUI arrests in the Cook County, Illinois area. We also strongly suggest that you do not plead guilty, plead no contest, or accept a plea bargain without first consulting an attorney. Any of these actions could result in a conviction against you. Having a DUI conviction, even a plea-bargained conviction, on your record may result in dire consequences and affect the rest of your life.
A plea bargain is a negotiation between you and the prosecutor where you plead guilty to an agreed to charge. The prosecutor will almost always try to get you to accept a plea bargain. This attempt is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. In fact, negotiated pleas are very common, making up about 90% of all convictions. However, if you do not have an attorney, the prosecutor is negotiating from a position of power, and you will have little chance of a favorable outcome and may end up in a worse position than if you went to trial.
A plea bargain or plea involves three different areas of negotiation:
The Charges: this type of plea bargain involves the negotiation of the specific charges that a defendant will face at trial. Usually a defendant will plead guilty to a lesser charge or to a reduced number of charges.
The Sentence: this type of plea bargain involves the defendant pleading guilty to a charge with the prosecutor recommending a lighter sentence.
- The Facts: sometimes a defendant might admit to certain facts in return for the prosecutor not introducing other facts into evidence. The prosecutor then does not have to prove the facts admitted by the defendant. This is the least common type of plea bargain.
For a plea bargain to be valid, you must knowingly waive your rights, your waiver must be voluntary, and there must be a basis to support the charges to which you are pleading guilty. Specifically, by accepting a plea bargain you will be giving up the following rights:
Right to a trial
Right to remain silent
Right to testify and present evidence at trial
Right to use subpoenas to require witnesses to come to court and testify for at trial
Right to a jury trial
Right to confront in court the people who testify against the defendant and cross-examine them
- Right to make the State prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
Remember that the prosecutor is an attorney who is an expert at criminal law. He is not there to help you; he works for the government. For a conviction at trial, the prosecutor must prove any charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. However, he is allowed to file as many charges against you that he reasonably believes can be proven. If you are not represented by an experienced DUI attorney, you will probably have no idea which charges, if any, can actually be proven against you. Most people would believe that all the charges a prosecutor brings can be easily proven and are intimidated into accepting a plea bargain. Do not fall for type of negotiating ploy.
Accepting a plea agreement to a “reduced charge” may be very tempting in the face of multiple serious charges; however, if you accept a plea bargain, you will be admitting guilt, and you will surrender your right to appeal without all the charges being renewed. To entice you further, the prosecutor will likely emphasize the “benefits” of accepting a plea bargain. The prosecutor may tell you the following:
- You will get out of jail quicker.
- The matter will be quickly resolved.
- You will have fewer or less-serious offenses on your record.
- You will have a less socially stigmatizing offense on your record.
- You will avoid the hassle of going to trial.
- You can avoid publicity.
However, an experienced defense attorney can help you navigate through the plea bargain maze and help you negotiate with the prosecutor. Often times your attorney can negotiate the charge down to an infraction, which would only result in a fine and maybe other consequences such as traffic school—in other words, a DUI charge can be reduced to reckless driving. Even for more serious offenses, your attorney may be able to ensure a suspended sentence, court supervision, or probation instead of jail time. We recommend that you talk with an attorney who can help you before talking to the prosecutor about a plea bargain.
Plea Bargain Consequences
Accepting a plea bargain and pleading guilty to a felony or misdemeanor can have some long-lasting and serious consequences. First, it will create a criminal record. The plea will likely cost you a lot of money in fines, classes, counseling, and higher insurance rates. Furthermore, it may affect your employability and, if you are an immigrant, your immigration status. The impact on your employability and immigration status is discussed in further detail below.
Illinois has an official estimate for the cost of a DUI conviction. According the Illinois Secretary of State, the typical DUI conviction in Illinois costs $14,660. That figure takes into account the following:
Time missed from work due to incarceration or community service
The cost of high-risk insurance for three years
Court costs–including fines, court room costs, reimbursements to law enforcement, towing and storage fees, and a required contribution to the trauma center fund
Fees for driver’s license reinstatement
- The cost of substance abuse counseling and education
Once your insurance company finds out about your DUI conviction, it will probably deal with you in one of two ways. It might raise your insurance premiums and label you a high-risk driver, or it might cancel your insurance. If this happens, you will have to find another insurer with a cancellation on your insurance history, resulting in higher rates.
For the three years immediately following a DUI conviction, you may ll be required to have an SR-22 insurance policy—so named for the form that must be submitted to the State of Illinois by your insurance company. An SR-22 policy must comply with the Illinois Proof of Financial Responsibility statutes. Any lapse in coverage will be reported to the state by your insurance, and your license will be suspended. SR-22 policies are generally very expensive as you are considered a “high risk” driver.
Remember, when you accept a plea bargain, you are agreeing to plead guilty. When you do, you will have a criminal record, and having a criminal record can affect your current and future employment. Illinois is an employment at-will state. This means that your employer can terminate you for any reason except for your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, marital status, physical or mental handicap, military service or unfavorable military discharge. Furthermore, many employers now do criminal background checks on prospective employees. A DUI conviction may prevent a potential employer from hiring you. Even if your current employer does not find out or does not care about your criminal record, you may be unable to get to work due to a suspended driver’s license or impounded vehicle.
Depending upon your occupation and employer, a DUI conviction may result in even more serious consequences to your continued employment. Professional drivers and airline pilots are two examples of occupations where a DUI conviction will impact your ability to earn a livelihood.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, a DUI conviction can affect your immigration status, even if you are here legally on a valid visa or if you are a lawful permanent resident (“green-card” holder). There may be adverse immigration consequences even if your charges are reduced to a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances surrounding your DUI conviction and what offenses you are charged with. For example, In the Matter of Lopez-Reza, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that a conviction for driving under the influence while on a suspended license was a crime of moral turpitude, and therefore the defendant, who was a lawful permanent resident, was subject to deportation.
The Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure Sec. 113-8 requires that a judge read the following statement before accepting a plea of guilty for a misdemeanor or felony from an alien:
“If you are not a citizen of the United States, you are hereby advised that conviction of the offense for which you have been charged may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization under the laws of the United States.”
What to Do If You Are Arrested for a DUI
If you are arrested for violating Illinois’ DUI laws, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. In order to preserve your rights, you should seek legal counsel without delay. In Chicago, videotapes and audiotapes of arrests are only maintained for 30 days, after which valuable evidence documenting your arrest may be lost. In addition, if you fail to file required documentation within 46 days of your arrest, your license will automatically be suspended.
A lawyer experienced in defending people accused of DUI can challenge the prosecutor’s evidence and could have the charges reduced or dropped without having to accept a conviction. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact Chicago DUI defense attorney Ava George Stewart by e-mail or call (312) 944-3973 to schedule a free consultation.