If you are facing a DUI charge, you are probably ready to move on with your life. Dealing with a DUI can be stressful, and the last thing you want to do is make your life even more stressful by preparing for a trial (the outcome of which is inherently uncertain). As a result, you might be thinking about pleading guilty so that you can move on.
But this can be a huge mistake.
When facing a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, you need to protect yourself by all means available. Pleading guilty can prove incredibly costly; and, while it might seem like the easiest option right now, it could make your life much more difficult for years to come.
5 Reasons Not to Plead Guilty to Your Pennsylvania DUI Charge
Here are five reasons not to plead guilty to your Pennsylvania DUI charge:
Reason #1: Pleading Guilty to DUI Can Have Serious Consequences
Drunk driving charges carry substantial penalties under Pennsylvania law. If you plead guilty and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was between 0.08% and 0.099%, you could be sentenced to hundreds of dollars in fines, up to six months of probation, and mandatory alcohol education and ignition interlock device installation—among other penalties. If your BAC was above 0.099%, or if your case involves any other aggravating factors, the penalties you face after pleading guilty could be far greater.
Then, there are the collateral consequences of having a DUI on your permanent record.
With a DUI on your permanent record, your insurance rates will increase dramatically, and you will find it more difficult to find a job, housing, and financing. If you lose your driver’s license as a result of pleading guilty, you will need to pay for alternate transportation, and you will need to pay a fee to have your license reinstated. If you are a licensed professional, military service member, college student, or foreign citizen, pleading guilty can have consequences for your career, education, or ability to remain in the United States as well.
Reason #2: You May Have Several Defenses Available (Even if You Were Driving Drunk)
Another reason not to plead guilty to your DUI is that you may have several defenses available. This is true even if you were drunk behind the wheel. Some examples of potential defenses to DUI charges in Pennsylvania include:
- You weren’t in “actual physical control” of a vehicle
- Your BAC and field sobriety test results are unreliable
- The police stopped you without reasonable suspicion
- The police conducted an illegal sobriety checkpoint
- The police arrested you without probable cause
Again, these are just examples. When you meet with an experienced PA DUI defense lawyer, your lawyer will thoroughly examine the facts of your case to determine how he or she can defend you. With so much at stake, you need to make informed decisions, and this starts with ensuring that you have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the circumstances at hand.
Reason #3: The Prosecution Must Prove Your Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Regardless of the facts of your case, the burden of proof rests with the government. To secure a conviction, prosecutors must be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If your arresting officer is unavailable to testify, if any of the government’s evidence is inadmissible, or if the prosecution simply doesn’t have enough evidence to meet its burden of proof, these are all factors that could save you from the consequences of a conviction.
To be clear, when you plead guilty to a DUI, this results in a conviction on your permanent record. The consequences of pleading guilty and facing a guilty verdict in court are the same. Pleading guilty will not earn you favor with the judge, and it will not do anything to minimize the consequences of your DUI arrest.
Reason #4: Your Lawyer May Be Able to Help You Secure a Plea Bargain
Let’s say you were driving drunk, and let’s say prosecutors have the evidence they need to prove it. In this scenario, is it still worth hiring a lawyer? Or, are you just as well off pleading guilty?
Even assuming that prosecutors will be able to secure a conviction in court (which is not an assumption that you should make), you still have options. For example, your lawyer may be able to help you secure a plea bargain. If your lawyer can get your charge reduced to a “wet reckless,” the consequences of a reckless driving conviction are far less severe than the consequences of pleading guilty to DUI.
Reason #5: You May Qualify for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
Finally, if you are a first-time offender, you may be able to avoid consequences entirely by entering into Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. If you qualify, this is an option regardless of the facts of your case. While there are steps that you will need to take to complete the ARD program successfully, these steps are far less costly and time-consuming than dealing with a DUI. Once you have completed the ARD program, your record will be wiped clean—and, crucially, this is one of the only ways to have a DUI arrest removed from your permanent record in Pennsylvania.
In short, there are lots of reasons not to plead guilty to a DUI in Pennsylvania. To ensure that you make informed decisions with your long-term best interests in mind, you should discuss your case with an experienced PA DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with PA DUI Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman
Do you need to know more about the options for fighting a DUI charge in Pennsylvania? If so, we invite you to get in touch. Former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney and PA DUI defense lawyer Brian Fishman has extensive experience defending clients against drunk driving charges. To schedule a free initial consultation with Mr. Fishman, please call 267-758-2228 or request an appointment online today.