Can I Realistically Get My DUI Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving?

Preston Fleming

Prospective clients often ask this question. In most cases, the answer is yes, but there’s no way I can guarantee that. Sadly, for some prospective clients, the answer is no and we’d be better off taking our chances at trial on the DUI charge.

As we delve deeper into the conversation, I invariably have to inform the client that, despite everything that I’ve told him/her about the likely outcome of their case I also have to add, “but that all depends.” No attorney, bar none, can guarantee a client a particular outcome. All we can do is promise to do the very best we can to achieve the best possible outcome for the client. Consider the following.

A Typical Scenario

The client is tying one on at his favorite bar and it’s getting near closing time. He knows he shouldn’t have chugged those three beers just before the last call and considers calling Lyft for a ride home but then decides, since the home is only 3 miles away, he should be okay to drive. The local patrolman drives by and spots Client walking out the front door of the bar and getting into his car. Patrolman does not observe any signs of impairment, despite this fact he decides to follow the client. The client drives half a mile to the end of the block, signals for a right turn, comes to a full stop at the stop sign, then turns and he’s halfway home.

After another mile or so patrolman activates his lights and conducts a stop. Several indicators of impairment are immediately evident to the patrolman; he smells alcohol on the client’s breath, the client’s speech is slurred and when asked to get out of the car he is unsteady on his feet. The client does poorly on the field sobriety test and blows above .08 on the alco sensor (hand-held breathalyzer). Obviously, he is arrested and charged with DUI Per Se (above .08) and failure to maintain the lane. To make matters even worse he blows even higher on the Intoxilyzer 9000 (breathalyzer at the station). Faced with these “preliminary” facts a non-lawyer would think the Client is toast and should just throw himself at the mercy of the court and take whatever punishment he has coming.

The Importance of Getting All the Facts

This could be a classic cautionary tale of why a non-lawyer should never represent themselves in a DUI case and why you should always hire a lawyer that represents clients charged with DUI offenses exclusively. As your DUI lawyer, after filing the initial appearance, I’m going to file several discovery motions with the court. The purpose of which is to say to the solicitor or district attorney, “give me every bit of evidence you have against my client” and “oh, by the way, if there’s anything you have that exculpates my client, i.e. benefits his case, I want that also.”

And by law, they have to give it to me. To make a long scenario short, let’s say that the patrolman activated his dash camera once he got behind the client and it was on during the entire episode. It filmed his horrible performance on the field sobriety tests, his slurred speech, and clearly showed that he was impaired. It also very clearly showed that he committed no traffic offense prior to the stop. Now the case has gone from one in which it seemed like a slam dunk conviction for the prosecution, to the entire case possibly being dismissed because the stop was clearly a 4th Amendment violation.

The patrolman had no probable cause nor reasonable suspicion to execute the stop in the first place. The client would likely be offered a deal to plea to reckless driving or even lessor charge. However, there’s a good chance the case would be dismissed after a probable cause hearing. If it’s not dismissed, I would probably advise the Client to take his chances at trial.

The patrolman’s incident or arrest report is already questionable because it likely totally contradicts the video, and by the time the plea discussions are underway, it’s also likely that the patrolman has already been impeached under oath at Client’s ALS (administration license suspension) hearing. Essentially, he’s useless to the prosecution as a witness at trial. There are other facts that can be uncovered to make the client’s case even stronger, but you get the point. You just never know how the case is going to turn out until you get “all the facts” or as least as much of them as you can.

If you choose The Fleming Firm to represent you in your DUI case, we’ll LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED and uncover “all the facts” to get you the best possible outcome.

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