The Benefits of a Bargain to Impaired Driving
Impaired driving or driving under the influence (DUI) can land you in hot water. The penalties for an impaired driving offense are designed to be swift and steep. Even a first offense can lead to harsh consequences impacting all areas of your life. A plea bargain for a DUI is sometimes your best option. Each impaired driving or DUI charge is unique based on the defendant’s circumstances and prior record. If you are facing an impaired driving charge in New Mexico, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We understand just how detrimental a DUI conviction can be, and we are here to fight for your rights.
What Is Impaired Driving?
The U.S. Department of Transportation defines impaired driving as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This refers to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than or equal to 0.08% (mass of alcohol per blood volume in the body). In other words, impaired driving is synonymous with DUI or driving while intoxicated (DWI).
New Mexico Laws
It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. If either alcohol or drugs impair you while driving, you could face a DUI.
In New Mexico, it is unlawful for a person under the influence of intoxicating liquor to operate a motor vehicle. It is also illegal for a person to drive under the influence of any drug that impairs their ability to drive.
The New Mexico legislature implemented stiff penalties for DUI convictions. Here is a brief breakdown.
First-Offense DUI Penalties
For a first-time DUI, you face the following penalties:
- Up to 90 days in jail,
- Up to a $500 fine,
- Ignition interlock device for one year,
- Alcohol screening, and
- Twenty-four hours of community service.
Depending on the circumstances, you can ask for a deferred or suspended jail sentence if you successfully comply with a yearlong probationary period.
Second-Offense DUI Penalties
A second charge involves the following penalties:
- Up to one year in jail,
- A probationary period between one and five years,
- Up to a $1,000 fine,
- Ignition interlock device for three years,
- 96 hours of community service, and
- DUI school and treatment.
Third and subsequent offenses will have even harsher penalties.
What Is Aggravated DUI?
Aggravated DUI is driving while intoxicated with aggravating circumstances present. These aggravating circumstances include driving while impaired with a child in the car, having a BAC of double or more than the legal limit (i.e., 0.16% or above), refusing the breathalyzer, or causing an accident that results in injuries.
Field Sobriety Tests
Drunk driving laws vary from state to state. However, field sobriety tests are universal among law enforcement agencies. Field sobriety tests (FST) are used to identify the intoxication level of suspected impaired drivers. If a police officer suspects you may be impaired while operating your car (e.g., you are swerving between lanes), they will likely pull you over and administer FSTs. There are three standard FSTs, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn.
Benefits of a Plea Bargain to Impaired Driving Charge
A plea bargain, in any case, is a negotiated alternative or “deal” to trying your case before a jury.
A DUI plea bargain is no different. There are generally two types of plea bargains for DUI: a sentence or a charge reduction.
A sentence reduction involves the defendant pleading guilty to the charge in exchange for an agreed-upon sentence. Often the penalty will be on the minimum or moderate side of the sentencing guidelines. If you are wondering why you would do this, the answer is simple—to avoid the possibility of receiving a harsher sentence at trial. It takes the uncertainty out of the equation.
Another plea bargain option is a charge reduction. A charge reduction is what it sounds like. The defendant, with counsel, will negotiate a plea to a lesser charge with the prosecutor. A lesser charge, like reckless driving, will have lighter penalties and allows you to avoid having a DUI conviction on your record.
Why Would I Plea Bargain?
There can be many benefits or advantages to accepting a negotiated plea, including:
- A lighter, more lenient sentence;
- No surprises at trial or sentencing (i.e., knowing what to expect);
- Possibly avoiding the conviction being counted as a “prior” DUI on your record; and
- Possibly preventing a license suspension.
Of course, another good reason to accept a deal that involves a charge reduction is to avoid the negative stigma associated with a DUI.
Should I Take a Plea Bargain?
The decision to take a plea deal is personal to you and your case. It is also important to remember that the prosecutor is generally under no obligation to offer a plea bargain, so it may not always be on the table. You might need an attorney to negotiate for you, so the prosecutor feels it is in their best interest to offer you a plea. Without an attorney putting pressure on them, prosecutors don’t always feel generous to DUI defendants.
And after securing an offer, your attorney will help you weigh your options. They know how to properly weigh the strength of the prosecutor’s case, the impact of any prior convictions, the risk of re-offending, and any other aggravating or mitigating factors. They also know how to weigh your chances of succeeding if you go to trial instead of taking the plea. Without this wealth of experience and knowledge, you will be taking great risks with your future. So reach out to us today.
Albuquerque, New Mexico DUI Attorneys
Were you caught driving while impaired and charged with a DUI in or around Albuquerque, New Mexico? It would be best if you had a sharp DUI attorney on your side. At our New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we have dedicated our careers to helping individuals accused of crimes, including DUIs. We have successfully defended our clients, including winning outright dismissals, not-guilty verdicts, and favorable plea deals. Contact us today to schedule your free, confidential consultation!