Suffolk County First Time DWI and Plea Bargain Policy
Suffolk County has a very strict plea bargaining policy regarding DWI offenses.
A plea bargain may or may not be advisable depending upon the facts of your individual case. A plea bargain allows you to plead guilty to something less than what you are charged with even though there is sufficient evidence to prove your guilt. For example, if you are charged with a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) this is a criminal offense. A conviction on this charge will lead to a criminal record.
However, you may be offered a plea to a lesser offense, such as DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). A DWAI is a violation, not a crime. If you accept the offer you would plead to the reduced charge of DWAI and as a result you would not have a criminal record.
If this is your first arrest for DWI the general plea bargain policy will depend on a few main factors, they are: whether you refused to submit to a chemical test. If you submitted to the breath test, your plea bargain will depend on how high the result was (by blood, breath, or urine).
If you blew into the breath machine at the police station and your reading is below a .13:
You will be offered a reduced charge, Driving While Ability Impaired. This charge is favorable since it is a non-criminal disposition. This means that you would conclude your case without having a criminal conviction.
However, there are exceptions to this policy, which MAY mean you will not be offered the reduced charge. One exception is, if there was an accident with another vehicle (especially if there was an injury to the other driver).
Another exception is if there are other aggravating factors, such as driving with a suspended license, speeding (or otherwise driving recklessly) or negative interaction with the police (such as resisting arrest).
In other words, if this is your first arrest and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is below a .13 you may be given a favorable plea bargain of a violation, which is not a crime.
If you blew into the breath machine at the police station and your reading is a .13 or above:
The District Attorney will not offer a plea bargain to a non-criminal offense. This is a strict policy which the District Attorney will not depart from barring some significant legal issue. In this case you will have to plan on going to trial if your main objective is to avoid a criminal conviction.
In general, if you blow into the machine at the station and it registers a .13 BAC or higher you will not be offered a non-criminal disposition.
If you refused to blow into the machine:
Likewise, the District Attorney will not offer a plea bargain to a non-criminal offense. This is a strict policy which the District Attorney will not depart from, barring some significant legal issue. However, these cases are generally harder for the District Attorney to prove and therefore, there is a better chance that they will depart from their policy. This is especially so if there is a video that tends to demonstrate that you were not intoxicated.
Occasionally the District Attorney will allow “interim probation." This means that if you choose not to go to trial and believe that you were intoxicated when you drove, you can plead guilty to the misdemeanor DWI. However, the sentencing date will be adjourned for a year. During this year you will report to a probation officer. After the year expires you will report back to court for your sentencing date. On this date you will withdraw your plea of guilty. You will then plead guilty to the reduced charge of DWAI and your case will be over. This will mean that you will not have a criminal conviction. This is true even though you initially pled guilty to a crime (DWI). Your record will show a conviction of the DWAI only and you will have no criminal record.
You should work with an attorney that is familiar with these policies and with the intricacies of DWI defense in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not a plea bargain or a trial is in your best interest.