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plea bargain

The government may offer the defendant in a DUI/DWI criminal prosecution a plea bargain or “deal” to avoid the time, cost, and risk of failing to secure a conviction at trial—and the defendant may accept such a plea deal to reduce the risk of a greater sentence. A defendant may only plead guilty if they actually committed the crime and admit to doing so in open court before the judge. When the defendant admits to the crime, they agree they are guilty and agree that they may be sentenced by the judge presiding over the court—the only person authorized to impose a sentence.

Sometimes the defendant and the government/prosecution agree that the defendant will plead guilty—sometimes to lesser charges than the defendant is facing—and agree what the punishment will be—subject to the court’s approval of the plea deal. And sometimes the defendant will agree to plead guilty and the government/prosecution will agree not to recommend an enhanced sentence—but it is up to the judge to determine how the defendant will be sentenced or punished.

If a defendant pleads guilty there is no trial and the next step is to prepare for a sentencing hearing.

In Texas, plea bargaining is a common practice in DUI/DWI criminal prosecutions. The government may offer a plea deal to the defendant to avoid the uncertainties of a trial, and the defendant may accept this offer to potentially receive a lighter sentence than if convicted at trial. A defendant can only plead guilty if they truly committed the offense and must admit to it in open court. The judge is the only authority who can impose a sentence. Plea agreements may involve the defendant pleading guilty to lesser charges or the prosecution agreeing not to seek an enhanced sentence. However, the final sentencing decision rests with the judge, even if both parties have agreed on a recommended punishment. Once a guilty plea is entered, the case proceeds to a sentencing hearing, bypassing the trial phase.

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