An office happy hour with two-for-one drink specials or an evening out and several drinks with a meal could be enough to push a breath or blood alcohol reading above the legal .08 limit.
For those charged for the first time with impaired driving or a DUI, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. A case that recently made local news provides some insights into alternative options to avoid a DUI conviction.
A Washington city councilmember reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to first-degree negligent driving, which will allow him to avoid a DUI conviction.
As part of the deal, he took responsibility for driving under the influence of alcohol and must pay a $900 fine, seek chemical dependency treatment and complete a DUI victim-impact panel.
The incident was the man's first offense and his blood alcohol content was very close to the legal limit.
The case illustrates how even with a DUI charge, options exist. Depending on the individual facts of the case, defenses or police errors might exist related to what prompted an initial stop or the alcohol testing method used.
Even when law enforcement officials follow correct procedures, a plea deal may still be possible.
Reducing the charges
Another alternative disposition to a DUI conviction is to seek a reduction to reckless driving.
This might be available if a BAC is over the limit but the prosecution's case is weak, because a key piece of evidence is missing or cannot be used at trial.
This reduction in charge may result in penalties similar to DUI penalties but with shorter probation and license suspension.
Still another option available in some cases is a deferred prosecution.
Here the court requires completion of a chemical dependency assessment and recommended treatment and other conditions - such as paying costs and maintaining good behavior - before dismissing the charge.
The length of a deferred prosecution is five years and includes two years of chemical dependency treatment.
This option is only available once per lifetime.
Whether the conditions are met within the provided timeframe is very important. For those who fail to complete treatment, an automatic conviction goes onto their record.
Whether a plea deal has the potential to keep a DUI conviction off your criminal record will depend on prior offenses and your BAC level. A consultation with a local experienced DUI attorney ensures that your rights are protected through the case-resolution process.
An attorney can also discuss possible challenges associated with errors by the police and spot possible defenses that may mean a straight dismissal of the DUI charge-and no criminal record.