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DUI arrests and pleading to lesser charges: is it a good idea?

There are some people in Virginia who would tell you to play everything “by the book” during a drunk-driving stop, even telling you to be honest with police about whether or not you’ve consumed any alcohol beverages. The rationale behind this advice typically stems from the belief that if you’ve done something wrong, you should be held accountable for your actions.

Unfortunately, this advice doesn’t exactly have your best interests in mind. While honesty is the best policy, a police officer may be intentionally violating your civil rights and did not have a reason to stop you in the first place. Your decision to be honest has now implicated you, meaning you do not have the right to appeal your case later on and avoid the serious consequences of a DUI.

This begs the question by many, though: should you plead to a lesser charge? In situations like the one above where a driver’s rights have been violated, pointing out an officer’s missteps can lead to lesser charges. But choosing to plead to these lesser charges is a risk you should discuss first with a qualified defense attorney. That’s because even pleading guilty to a lesser charge does not mean a crime will not show up on your criminal record, which is viewable by employers.

It’s also important to consider the expungement process, which is something we outlined in a May post last year. It is possible to get a DUI arrest expunged from your record if you plead to lesser charges because prosecutors did not peruse the more severe DUI charge. Unfortunately, because you pled guilty to lesser charges, the new charge will show up on your record and may not be expunged later on.

Whether you consider pleading to a lesser charge a good idea or a bad one, you should discuss your options with a lawyer if you find yourself facing DUI charges down the road. Your decision could impact you for the rest of your life.

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