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DUI - is it critical to hire an atty to plea down my chg to Reckless Driving? I don't believe it. Sounds like he wants my $$$.

Saint Petersburg, FL |

I've met with an atty for free advise....knowing that he'd want me to hire him. He went so far as to say that my mug shot would effect my case. He stated that he could reduce my charges to reckless driving, as I did not take the Breathalyzer. Family feels as though this is all a game to get me to hire him, and that I'm going to face what I'm going to face regardless of an atty. Can I plea down with my prosecutor on my own? I'm unemployed, and he wants 3G to take my case. Am I wasting my time trying to borrow the money? I just feel as though I'm getting "sold" a bill of goods here. I would appreciate your candor in this. It would be a miracle if I could keep this charge off of my record, but I'm just not convinced. Thank you in advance.

What IS the most common plea available to me? I blew the breath test, but only slightly - they wouldn't give me a second chance. I'm told that I failed the "field sobriety test".

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Attorney answers 14


First of all you should never represent yourself. No offense but unless one of your family members is an experienced criminal defense attorney they have no idea what they are talking about. The prosecutor will not speak to you about this case and will not negotiate a plea with you. The only offer the prosecutor will make is one that is in open court in the presence of the Judge. If you are not happy with the fee the attorney is asking for call another attorney. Get a second opinion. But I should tell you $3000 is not an outrageous fee to pay for a DUI. I wish you the best of luck.

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It is critical to have a lawyer when you are dealing with a DUI because there is a mandatory conviction and you are dealing with a lot of civil issues as well.
That being said, no (honest) lawyer can guarantee a reduction to reckless driving but your chances are greatly approved with one. The amount quoted to you is a very reasonable fee but feel free to call around and talk/meet with other local lawyers.
Good luck,


I've practiced criminal law for fifteen years, including three years as a prosecutor, and I have never seen an unrepresented individual negotiate a reduction in their DUI to a Reckless Driving. If you think you can navigate the criminal process without a lawyer, I'm afraid you don't know what you're dealing with. Refusing a breath test does not, in and of itself, mean you'll have your case reduced. The facts of your case and the evidence available to the State will play a role in the possibility of a reduction of the charges. Your driving record and background will also play a role.
In addition, I would caution you to watch out for lawyers that tell you that they can or that they will secure a certain result in your case. That is improper and unethical. We can only assure our clients that we will do our absolute best to protect them from the charges and the consequences of those charges. We cannot and should not make any sort of promise or assurance that a certain result will follow as a result of you hiring us.
I recommend you seek out the advice of other lawyers and I recommend you hire the best DUI lawyer you can afford. This is not a simple process and it requires a level of skill and experience to get the best available result. You've already received a reply from a well-qualified lawyer in your area. I suggest you start there and would encourage you to meet with at least 2 or 3 lawyers ASAP in order to better understand what you're dealing with.
Best of luck!

Posting an answer to your question does not create an attorney / client relationship such that you can or should rely on the information provided herein to take action. Instead, it is intended to simply provide you with information. I am not your lawyer and cannot provide you with legal advice unless and until I am hired to do so.


What bill of goods are you being sold? You took advantage of a free consultation to get some free advice. When you accept a free consultation from an attorney, you're signing up for an evaluation of your case and an explanation of what that attorney feels he/she can do for you. The attorney doesn't have a crystal ball and can't (and shouldn't) promise an outcome. BUT based on their knowledge of your judge, the court system, your prosecutor, AND what you're telling them about what happened, they can give you some idea of a best case/worst case scenario.

If you're unemployed and unwilling to "waste your time" to borrow money, then you should apply for an attorney at the public defender's office. DUIs are serious and expensive to have on your record. You need an attorney to advise you. Most attorneys at the public defender's office are excellent, over-worked, passionate people. I would point out that there are some things they can't and won't do for you in the context of a DUI (like represent you in the civil suspension of your DL).

I disagree with your family - offers change with motion practice, negotiation, trial, etc..

Please be advised that my answer to this question is based on limited facts and offered solely for informational purposes. My answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. Maria E. Castagliuolo can be contacted at 727-698-3634. If my answer was helpful, please select Best Answer or Helpful. Thank you!



I'm sorry that you feel so aggressively passionate about my comment. The "bill of goods" that I refer to is in regard to my mug shot having effect on this case. I was smiling, and looked rather normal, in fact. Also, many people have represented themselves in a courtroom and won their cases. Perhaps someone can tell me what percentage of DUI cases, in Pinellas County, have pled down to Reckless Driving? Maybe I should have phrased my question that way. However, I do appreciate your advise regarding a Public Defender. And yes, borrowing money from my family will be NO easy task. Additionally - I'm trying to keep this as secretive as possible. Not sure why you sound so angry - but I apoligize if I've offended you.

Maria E Castagliuolo

Maria E Castagliuolo


There's no need to apologize. I'm not angry or offended. That was my candid assessment of your questions. You're setting yourself up for failure if you represent yourself. DUIs are complicated. It's cheaper to pay an attorney on the front end to "do it right," then to pay (likely a higher sum) to an attorney to try to fix your case on the back end (not to mention that your recourse will be limited). Best of luck, whichever way you proceed.


Yes it is critical. Unless you like getting railroaded. No you won't be able to negotiate anything with the prosecutor. If you needed surgery, would you hire a doctor or open yourself up?


Many people have a predisposition against trusting lawyers, often without basis in real experience or fact.

The hiring of an attorney (and thus the choice of an attorney) has to be based on mutual trust. I trust my client to be honest with me, stay in contact with me, follow my counsel and pay his fees, and in turn, I want my client to trust that I will do everything I can to help him win his case or minimize his downside consequences.

Some clients are problems from the start. Experienced lawyers spot them easily. I turn them away sometimes. If you go into this process looking over your shoulder, you should represent yourself and see how that works out for you.

Good Luck.

Every case and situation is different and vary greatly depending on specific facts. My posts are not to be considered complete answers to each question. My posts do not constitute an attorney/client relationship. I am only licensed to practice in the State of Florida and in federal courts. Florida Bar #337821, admitted 1982.


There are no guarantees in criminal defense or any other area of law. I have had terrible DUI cases that turn out fantastic and what I think are going to be great cases turn bad. Bottom line nothing can be "guaranteed" and if someone tells you they can guarantee an outcome get up and run, don't walk out of that office or better yet ask that lawyer to put this guarantee in writing.

Do yourself a favor and contact several local DUI lawyers to discuss your case, you will know after speaking with several who best fits your needs.


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Ok. I hear this a lot lately " can you just reduce my charges to a reckless driving?" I often wonder if there was an law and order episode about reducing the charge. The only way the charge gets reduced to a reckless, in my experience and I have a lot in DUI cases, is that there is a Motion to Suppress that has a very good chance of winning. After I file my Motions to Suppress, I usually receive a call from the prosecutor and they are willing to negotiate and reduce the charge. If my client's facts are factually close to District Court of Appeal cases or Supreme Court cases then most of the time my client rejects the reduced charge because if my substantive motion to suppress is granted then the State gets nothing because we win. If it's a horrendous DUI or the facts don't quite line up then it is advantageous, if offered, to accept a withhold of adjudication on a reckless-never an adjudication. If you receive an adjudication on a Reckless driving charge then the original DUI stays on your record and can never be removed. Accordingly, DUI cases are not just broken down because you did not give a Breath test. There has to be some serious mistakes by police to have the charged reduced and yes it happens often as most police do not take the time to learn the case law. Hence you need a lawyer but if a lawyer tells you he will have it reduced then I would ask him for the upcoming results of the lottery and spend a dollar to see if he is correct. Hopefully, you get the drift nobody can tell the future and if he could he would charge a hell of a lot more than 3k.


Looking at your questions “Can I plea down with my prosecutor on my own?”

You can attempt to contact the prosecutor(s) and have a talk with them directly. There is no prohibition against you doing so. However, you will be effectively negotiating a criminal offence that could have far reaching impacts on your life in the short, medium and long term. I invite you to look on the Avvo site for the general costs involved in a DUI case. While not compendious, this has substantial costs now and later. Sometimes, an ineffective or negative plea negotiation could have an impact upon further attempts to negotiate. Meaning that if you create a negative negotiating environment, then attempt to plea with the assistance of an attorney it could have an impact on the outcome. I will leave you with be careful and choose wisely.

“Am I wasting my time trying to borrow the money?”

Like it or not, this is a significant point in your life. No attorney can guarantee you a particular outcome, but they can give you an opinion or outlook from their training and experience. Could you have a bad outcome even if you obtain an attorney—yes, it is possible. However, the odds of a favorable outcome improve when someone is intimately familiar with the proverbial rules of the game.

and “What IS the most common plea available to me?”

There is not enough information given to give you a reliable answer as this is an extraordinarily fact intensive question that involves more information from you and more information about the local ASA.

On other issues, $3,000 is not even close to being what an experienced DUI could charge for certain DUI cases. You will appreciate advice about the current, and more particular, any future instances of refusing to blow or take a Breathalyzer. Perhaps to bolster credibility, in your eyes, I am not currently accepting clients in the U.S. and, therefore, have no potential for pecuniary incentive to give you the following advice. Seek legal counsel to aid you in this matter soon. Motions will likely need to be drafted and hearings held before your trial if you are not given the golden offer of a reduction to reckless driving—which is not likely. You do not want to give up any potential defenses by waiting around to obtain an attorney, do this now. I wish you the best and hope that you have a favorable outcome.

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A person who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer. Are you a fool?


Could not agree more with Mr. Ladan above... Not much more to add, except to suggest that you take a look at my legal guide... "Top 10 Mistakes you can make after being arrested for DUI". See the link below. You are not unlike many others that have been arrested for a DUI. Don't fall into the traps outlined in this publication. Hire a SOLID DUI attorney in your jurisdiction. Don't go for the "cheapest one". You will always get what you pay for. Interview several, and make sure you put your future in the right hands.

The answers provided on this site, and on our websites, are for educational purposes only. Since every case is factually different, I may need further information to provide the most up to date answers or responses to your questions. Furthermore, this may be construed to be an advertisement from an attorney, and the TN Board of Professional Responsibility requires that I advise you of such. In any event, my responses here do not suggest an attorney/client relationship, nor do they suggest representation in any matter. In order to have legal representation, you would need to set up an appointment. Blessings to you!


Had to chime in. Hire a lawyer....but DON'T hire a lying attorney who says your mugshot will affect the judge's sentencing.


You need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who actively handles DUI cases. Frankly, of course the attorney wanted you to hire him--so does every attorney who is answering your question on Avvo. Very few of us work for free.

If you think you can negotiate your own case, then you might have a very nasty surprise awaiting you. The State may offer you pre-trial diversion at arraignment, but it doesn't have to do that, and your case sounds like one the State prosecute. The judge might offer you no jail time, but you still take a hit to your driver's license and insurance rates.

Defendants often say they "want [their] case to go away." It rarely does, and here, the attorney's quoted fee is more than fair. An attorney must quote a fee based upon the case's complexity and expected costs, and that means the full costs of going to trial. Frankly, I think the attorney quoted too low a price for your venue. If an attorney quotes a flat fee of X, and the case cost's Y, then the attorney is stuck paying the difference between X & Y.

Insofar as promising certain results, that is both impossible and unethical to do. A defense attorney could put on a perfect defense (that NEVER happens--mistakes and missteps occur), but the prosecute could have a brilliant day, or the jury might not like the cologne you are wearing (or your mugshot, if allowed into evidence), and you get convicted. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing.

You seem to be predicating your defense on cost. That's almost always a very bad idea. You absolutely need to hire the best legal defense you can afford--especially in your venue.

Let me put it this way: If the State wanted to prosecute me for DUI in Hillsborough County, then I'd hire a great DUI attorney, and I'd pay a lot more than $3K.


Who knows if your mug shot would be a part of the States case, but at the core of your posting it appears you have a bit of distrust of your lawyer.

First rule of hiring a lawyer is you must trust him/her. Why would you pay someone to represent you that you do not trust?
Secondly, this idea that you are entitled to a reduction to Reckless Driving because the State has no breath sample is incorrect and it's too bad someone put that in your head. Reckless Driving reductions usually occur because the State is concerned about proving a DUI case. I can assure you, having a refusal is not a concern for a DUI prosecutor. The fact is, the majority of DUI trials a misdemeanor prosecutor conducts are refusal DUI cases.
Lastly, if you trust your lawyer, $3000 is an extremely low fee for an experienced DUI lawyer - you either got a quote from a lawyer cutting you a break because they know you (which is what I think you were referring to, as "my lawyer", I'm assuming he's represented you before) or someone not that experienced.

And as far as your family who thinks this is a game. It's your driving record and your liberty at stake, not theirs.

Good luck, give a few more lawyers a call. I would not attempt to do this on your own.

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