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DUI defense: Is it time to negotiate a plea bargain?

The Maryland criminal justice system gives everyone the opportunity to defend themselves against criminal charges. In fact, you will remain innocent until -- and only if -- the prosecution proves you to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court, no matter what the charges.

That said, a criminal defense lawyer cannot work miracles. If the prosecution has irrefutable evidence of your guilt, then you will likely face conviction.

What can you do if a DUI conviction is likely?

If the evidence brought against you in court is strong, your criminal defense lawyer will likely have a conversation with you about the possibility of negotiating a plea bargain. In some cases, a plea bargain agreement can assist a criminal defendant greatly.

Let's say the prosecution has charged you with Aggravated DUI, and there's a good chance you'll get convicted of that offense. Perhaps the prosecution considers your DUI to be "Aggravated" because your blood alcohol level was over .15 percent, you had a minor in the car, you caused a serious collision, you have a history of DUI, you didn't have your license with you or you were speeding at more than 20 mph above the limit.

As an Aggravated DUI, your charge comes with the threat of significantly higher punishments and fines compared to a lesser DUI charge. However, through a plea bargain your attorney makes a deal with the prosecution. You agree to plead guilty to a normal DUI, which comes with less severe punishments, in exchange for having the Aggravated DUI charge disappear.

The benefits of a plea bargain

Having reached a plea bargain, you're still going to get convicted, but your punishments will be significantly less severe. Also, you will save money on your criminal defense, and the timeframe of your criminal proceedings will be less.

Defendants must remember that the negotiation of a plea bargain requires tact, delicacy and an in-depth understanding of the law. A plea deal will not be appropriate in all cases, and sometimes the prosecution will not offer you a fair shake in the negotiations. That said, if a conviction is likely and the prosecution is willing to negotiate, this can be an excellent and cost-effective way to improve your legal situation.

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