Getting pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is an embarrassing and frightening experience. For many people, it can also be a mistake that has lasting consequences for multiple important areas of their lives.
It is common for people facing DUI charges in South Carolina to feel desperate for any way in which to reduce the embarrassment and social consequences of impaired driving charges. Quite a few people seem to think that just pleading guilty is the solution to moving on quickly when facing criminal charges like impaired driving.
After all, a first offense likely won’t result in jail time unless there are certain aggravating factors involved. However, there are three compelling reasons why pleading guilty may not be your best choice.
You have to worry about your criminal record
Pleading guilty to a charge will mean that court is merely a formality and not an ordeal. However, just because you plead guilty and don’t wind up battling in court doesn’t mean that you avoid all of the consequences that come from a court conviction.
You will have a criminal record associated with the charges. If you accept a plea deal, those charges may be somewhat reduced when compared with the initial charges. However, current or future employers and others who later perform background checks will tend to assume that you were guilty of the initial charge if you accepted a plea deal to a lesser offense.
You don’t necessarily know how the judge will sentence you
Most people believe that when they throw themselves on the mercy of the courts, the judge will take that into consideration during sentencing. Some judges do offer more lenient sentences for those who acknowledge their wrongdoing and thereby save the taxpayers the expense of an actual trial.
However, there is no obligation for a judge to do so. In some cases, a judge may even reject the recommendations of the prosecutor to impose a sentence that they feel is more appropriate for the offense. Judges have a lot of leeway when it comes to sentencing impaired driving charges, which could mean heavy fines, jail time and the loss of your license.
You will face more serious penalties next time you get charged
A significant number of people who wind up convicted of an impaired driving offense will eventually get in legal trouble related to alcohol again. If you already have a criminal conviction on your record for impaired driving, the consequences will be even more severe.
Even if the state has forensic evidence, you still have the right to a criminal defense. Procedural errors and other issues could open the doorway to an aggressive defense strategy. Talking about your arrest with an experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney will help you make better decisions about how to handle your current situation.