People Magazine recently reported that Michael Phelps, the 22-time medalist and Olympic swimmer, recently pled guilty to drunk driving in order to avoid a jail sentence. Phelps will have to serve 18 months of probation and face regular drug and alcohol testing. Had he not submitted to this plea bargain, Phelps faced serious consequences because this was his second D.U.I. arrest.

Phelps situation raises the question of whether choosing a plea bargain is a good idea for individuals who have been arrested for a D.U.I. Those who have been arrested for a D.U.I. in New York will likely have to determine whether they want to strike a plea bargain. While New York law places limits on the ability of a person to make a plea deal if he or she is a repeat D.U.I. offender, in many cases, individuals who have been arrested for a D.U.I. can make a plea deal.

Even so, not All Plea Bargains are Alike

If you’ve been arrested for a D.U.I., you can plead guilty to a less serious crime, plead guilty to one offense in exchange for having the charges for another offense dropped, or agree to a sentence that won’t subject you to the more extreme consequences of a D.U.I. in New York.

Penalties for a D.U.I. in New York can be rather serious. If you are found to be driving with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or higher, you can be convicted of a D.U.I. New York is an implied consent state, meaning that if you have been arrested for a D.U.I. and you refuse to submit to breath or chemical testing, you can have your license revoked under the law. The choice to drive in New York implies that you have consented to testing.

D.U.I. penalties include license revocation up to one year, fines up to $2,500, and up to one year of imprisonment. New York State issues harsher penalties for repeat offenders.  These legal penalties do not take into account the penalties insurance companies often levy on D.U.I. drivers in terms of increased premiums.

Individuals who have been arrested for a D.U.I. who face charges, can consider a plea deal if traditional methods of defense against a D.U.I. may not be viable.

Some traditional methods of challenging a D.U.I. include suggesting that the officer did not have probable cause to stop the person arrested for the D.U.I. in the first place. For instance, the officer must show that an individual broke some aspect of the law in order to legally stop the person. If the stop is not legal, then any evidence gathered for the D.U.I. during the stop may be inadmissible in court.

Individuals who fail field sobriety tests can also challenge the validity of these tests. Research has shown that many factors can make a subject fail a field sobriety test. Many medical conditions can actually produce false positives in field sobriety tests. For instance, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the walk and turn test is only effective in 79% of cases. This means that almost 1 in 4 people subjected to this test will produce a false result.

In some cases, however, law enforcement may have a great deal of evidence, and may have had clear probable cause in pulling over an individual. In this case, a plea deal may be a person’s best way to reduce charges.

Individuals should remember that any plea deal will be a kind of compromise. While prosecutors want to avoid the time and cost of hearing a case in court with a jury, prosecutors also will not want to let someone “off easy.” The stronger the evidence had against a person, the more likely the person will have to make more compromises in a plea deal.

Individuals also should protect themselves during the plea deal negotiation process. For instance, hiring a lawyer to help manage the plea deal process is one way individuals can protect themselves. Also, individuals should never admit to guilt when in the negotiation process of a plea deal. Anything said to a prosecutor can be used against a person in court until the plea deal is finalized. Hiring a D.U.I. criminal defense lawyer is an important step individuals can take to protect themselves from tactics used by prosecutors to gain information during the plea bargain process.

All things considered, individuals can sometimes receive very good plea bargain deals for a D.U.I. In some cases, the charge of D.U.I. may even be dropped if an individual is willing to plead guilty for reckless driving or for some lesser charge. Prosecutors generally do not want to waste the state’s money by going to court, and will sometimes agree to reasonable plea deals. Having an aggressive and knowledgeable dui lawyer who can help negotiate a good deal is essential.