Written by attorney Brian Douglas Sloan

Arizona DUI Defense Attorney Guide to a DUI Arrest - Step 17 - Considering Trial or A Plea


Whether charged with a Felony or Misdemeanor DUI offense, in nearly all situations, you will be offered a plea agreement at the trial court level. This is an opportunity to for you to accept responsibility for your actions, usually in exchange for a better sentence, pleading guilty to fewer charges, or a guarantee of a certain amount of jail or prison time.

An Experienced Defense Attorney will tell you that even if you think you “did it," that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t go to trial.

Sometimes taking a plea agreement is incredibly beneficial. Sometimes there is really little or no benefit to taking a plea agreement. And, occasionally, taking a plea agreement is a horrible idea. An Experienced Defense Attorney will know the difference.

When considering whether to take a plea agreement or not, or whether to go to trial or not, there are too many considerations and possibilities to list here.

The most important factor is to meet with your Attorney – whether a Private Attorney, or your “Indigent Representation" lawyer – and really sit down and discuss your case, all your options, and the risks involved in going to trial or taking a plea agreement.

Some things you need to know about deciding between a plea and trial:

  • If you plea guilty, know the consequences of doing so. While you may be aware that there is jail/prison time, and probation, there are also fines and fees, a conviction on your record, an impact on your driver’s license, and other potential consequences you may have not even thought of, such as your right to vote, your right to own a gun, your ability to run for public officer, your ability to get student loans, or, possibly, you ability to legally stay in this country (for Legal Residents). Be sure you know what you are giving up by pleading Guilty to a crime

  • Know that whether you want to take a plea agreement, or whether you want to go to trial, is completely up to you. Your Attorney – whether Private Attorney or an “Indigent Representation" lawyer may have a recommendation, and may even have a strong recommendation of what you should do, but the ultimate decision is up to you. You are the one that will have to live with the benefits or consequences of your decision.

  • If you decide to go to trial, you decide whether you want to testify on your own behalf at trial. This means that you get to tell your side of what happened, but only in response to your Attorney’s questions. This will very likely be done in a courtroom filled with about 15 people, so really think about whether you can handle and prepare yourself for this form of public speaking. Again, an Attorney can recommend, or strongly recommend that you testify or not testify, but the ultimate decision is up to you.

  • InArizona, we don’t have “Expungement." Some states allow for a person’s record to be “Expunged" (erased) after a period of time being an otherwise law abiding citizen. Arizonadoes not have this law. While you can talk to a Private Defense Attorney about “Setting Aside" your conviction, you need to realize that nothing is guaranteed, and the conviction you plead guilty to, or are found guilty of, may be on your record forever.

  • Pleading Guilty to an Aggravated DUI – any Aggravated DUI – is forever allegeable against you. What that means is that if, in the future, you were to get charged with another felony offense, even if it is 50 years from now, an Aggravated DUI conviction will still be used against you to make your punishment on the new offense much worse. There are very few Felonies that are “Forever Allegeable," but Aggravated DUI is one of them.

Again, the best piece of advice is to meet with your Attorney – whether a Private Attorney, or your “Indigent Representation" lawyer – and really sit down and discuss your case, all your options, and the risks involved in going to trial or taking the plea agreement.

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