Is It Possible To Plead A DWI Charge Down?

Posted on: 24 June 2020


Once it has become clear that a charge has a strong chance of sticking, a client may ask a DWI lawyer whether it might be possible to negotiate the charge to a lower one. In some cases, the answer is yes. Here is a look at when a DWI attorney might be able to help you do that and what the possibilities may be.

History Is a Big Factor

A first-time offender should have a decent chance of seeking a lesser charge. One common exception is if their conduct at the time of the incident was rather egregious. Generally, though, if you were cooperative with the police and didn't create a risk to human life, you should at least propose a negotiated solution if you're a first-timer. People who've had relatively short histories of DWI charges might have a chance, too.


Many jurisdictions have diversion programs that are aimed at first-time offenders. The process usually involves the person pleading guilty to the main set of charges, but the court will suspend the sentence. In exchange for this level of leniency, the convicted individual must attend drug and alcohol counseling. There may also be related counseling requirements, such as anger management, especially if the incident involved conduct beyond drinking or drug use.

Upon completion of counseling and after a set time without further DWI charges, such as a year, the conviction will come off the person's record. If the person fails to meet the requirements of the diversion program, then the full charges are reinstated with the appropriate penalties, including jail time and fines.

Lesser Charges

An alternative approach is to have the defendant plead guilty to a lesser charge. This is common in cases where the state might not have a very strong case, and it may be simpler for the prosecution to pursue something like a reckless driving charge. In extremely weak cases, this might be negotiated down to a traffic charge, such as failing to observe a traffic control device.

No Obligation to Negotiate

It's worth noting here that the state isn't obligated to negotiate with anyone. Perhaps a prosecutor believes your history is too troublesome to let go.

That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that all options are off the table. You can ask your DWI lawyer to present similar arguments to the judge. There is also the option of throwing yourself on the mercy of the court, where you plead guilty without a deal in the hope the judge is pleased with you accepting responsibility.