Following a Fort Lauderdale DUI arrest, the primary goal of our DUI defense attorneys is to challenge the charge outright and secure a dismissal or not guilty verdict. However, when the unfavorable evidence is substantial and chances of that are slim, we may adjust our strategy to negotiate with prosecutors, requesting to amend the charge from DUI to the less serious offense of reckless driving.
This is precisely what golf pro Tiger Woods did after his Florida DUI arrest in Palm Beach County earlier this year. Authorities arrested him after he was reportedly found passed out at the wheel of his vehicle. He was accused of intoxication with prescription drugs and marijuana. There was no alcohol in his system. He would later release a statement saying he was attempting to self-medicate to relieve pain from a previous back surgery and insomnia.
By pleading down to reckless driving, F.S. 316.192, as opposed to DUI, F.S. 316.193, defendants can avoid many of the negative consequences that accompany the more serious charge.
Some of the benefits of pleading DUI down to a reckless driving charge:
- A first-time conviction for reckless driving is punishable by a maximum 90 days in jail; A first-time DUI conviction carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail (assuming no one was injured or killed);
- Reckless driving does not carry the same stigma as DUI, which could jeopardize applications for future employment;
- Your auto insurance company probably won’t raise your rates as high for a reckless driving conviction as they would a DUI (which could save thousands of dollars a year);
- Reckless driving typically results in a lower fine than the minimum mandatory for DUI (minimum $500 up to $1,000 for a first-time DUI conviction, compared to a minimum $25 and maximum $500 for a first-time reckless driving offense);
- A DUI conviction can result in job termination (especially if you are required to drive as a condition of employment). Conversely, employers may be more sympathetic to a reckless driving conviction;
- If you are convicted of reckless driving and later arrested and convicted of DUI, you would be deemed a first-time DUI offender (assuming you had no other prior DUI convictions). That will reduce the severity of your sentence in the second case.
It should be noted: It’s not the judge who has the discretion to reduce your DUI charge to a reckless driving one. The only person with the authority to amend your charge pre-trial is the prosecutor. The only person with the ability and inclination to convince them to do so is your Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorney. That means it’s imperative you have an attorney who knows how to effectively negotiate with the prosecutor, and has a successful track record in doing so.
In Woods’ case, the judge sentenced him to one year on probation and a $250 fine (again, less than the $500 minimum mandatory for DUI). He will also be required to attend and complete DUI school, perform 20 hours of community service and attend a workshop hosted by victims of impaired drivers. The judge did not sentence him to any jail time, but stipulated that if Woods violated his probation, he would be sent to jail for 90 days and his fine would be increased to $500.
If you have questions about having your pending DUI charge reduced to reckless driving, we can help.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Tiger Woods pleads guilty to reckless driving in Florida court, avoids DUI conviction, Oct. 27, 2017, By Tom Doyle, UK Standard
More Blog Entries:
Florida DUI Plea Deal Crumbles After Defendant Late to Court, Oct. 5, 2017, Fort Lauderdale DUI Defense Attorney Blog