As with so many other states, you can be arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) in Delaware if your blood alcohol concentration or BAC is 0.08% or higher. Whether or not your ability to drive has been impaired, Delaware state law says that by driving your vehicle, you have automatically given your consent to take a chemical test that will determine your BAC level. If you are arrested for either of these charges, you will be arraigned and have to appear before a court judge.
What will Happen at your Arraignment?
Your DUI/DWI arraignment is the first stage of the entire trial process and occurs shortly after you have been released on bail from your arrest. At this point, you are going to be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Additionally, the court may set the amount of bail that you must pay. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may be released on your own recognizance, even if you have not posted bail. During your arraignment, you are only required to enter your plea, so having an attorney is not always necessary at this time.
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Keep in mind that you can always plead not guilty and change your plea later on to guilty or “nolo contender” (no contest). You also have the right to request a trial by jury, but unless you waive that right, the court will assume you want one. Your demands can always be dropped at a later point in time. If you are being accused of having prior DUI or DWI convictions, deny these charges. Your defense attorney will be able to challenge their validity at a later date.
What are your Options?
You will want to consult with an experienced defense attorney after you’ve been released (if you haven’t already) in order to evaluate your case as objectively as possible. You will have several options including:
• Demanding a jury trial
• Plea bargaining down to a reduced charge like “wet reckless” (reckless driving involving alcohol)
• Requesting a court trial in front of a judge
• Simply pleading guilty
Should you Fight the Charge or Plea Bargain?
During the consultation with your defense attorney, you will decide on whether you should fight the charges or plea bargain down to a lesser charge. Here are some factors that will most likely be considered:
• If it appears likely that a jury will find you guilty of your DUI or DWI charges, then consider negotiating a settlement with the prosecuting attorney or plea bargaining.
• Your chances of beating your DUI or DWI charges are considerably higher if it is determined that you BAC was under 0.08%. However, the prosecutor can claim that it exceeded 0.08% if you tested slightly under the legal limit (e.g. 0.07 or 0.06%).
• Your chances of winning will be slightly higher if the test results were between 0.08 and 0.11%. The jury will still need to be convinced that the results were not accurate or that there is reasonable doubt regarding the test’s accuracy. Convincing the judge or jury that you were not under the influence will depend on the type of testimony that your attorney uses.
• Your chances of winning your trial will decrease if your BAC was 0.12% or higher unless your attorney can shed sufficient doubt regarding the test results’ validity. If they can shed doubt on these results or reveal errors in them, it will increase your chances.
Remember, the farther below 0.08% that your BAC results were, the greater the chance that the prosecutor will be willing to plea bargain or that you will be acquitted. Just keep in mind that the chances of beating a DUI or DWI charge during a jury trial are not that high.
Should you ask for a Jury Trial?
If you plead not guilty and request a jury trial, you will have a better chance rather than facing an older, case-worn judge that has lots of guilty individuals over many years. There may be exceptions to this if your defense is overly technical or fairly unusual.
How Plea Bargaining Works
Legal dictionaries define plea bargaining, or “sentence bargaining” as it is sometimes referred to, as “an arrangement made between a prosecutor and a defendant wherein the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in the expectation of leniency.” Basically, a compromise is reached between the two parties so that the defendant receives a reduced charge, lower fines, and/or a shorter jail sentence.
Unfortunately, plea bargaining is not as common in DUI/DWI cases as it used to be. Not only this, but convictions for borderline cases (BAC of 0.08 to 0.12%) have become more common. In some cases, when alcohol was present, the prosecutor may not be allowed to plead the charges to anything below a “wet reckless.”
6 Common FAQ’s Regarding DUI/DWI Cases
Can I plea bargain down to a “wet reckless?” A conviction of wet reckless (reckless driving that involves alcohol) is possible when your BAC level is considered borderline.
I have prior convictions. How long are they relevant? Any DUI/DWI convictions stay on your record permanently.
What are the consequences if I refuse to take a blood or breathalyzer test? Revocation of your driver’s license for a year (2 years if you are under the age of 21).
What are the minimum sentences for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI/DWI offense? 1st offense – no jail time. 2nd offense – 60 days. 3rd offense – 1 year.
What is the maximum BAC level if I am under 21? Maximum of 0.02%.
When does an officer have to administer the test? Within 4 hours of driving your vehicle.
Getting a DUI Attorney in Delaware
The importance of having an experienced DUI/DWI attorney to plea bargain the charges down or take the case to a jury trial cannot be overstated. If for financial reasons, you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for your case. You will most likely be referred to the Public Defender’s office and fill out a financial disclosure to show that you cannot afford an attorney.
However, an experienced Newark, Delaware DUI/DWI attorney knows the different laws that apply to your case and can recommend a course of action that is in your best interests. They will ensure that your rights are protected under law and that the best possible outcome will result.