Can I do community service or pay a fine instead of being convicted of DUI, losing my driver’s license or going to jail?
Community service or any other alternative to conviction is sometimes called “taking a charge/matter/case under advisement.” It is a common resolution for some types of charges. However, DUI is treated differently because of the public safety concern, and it is extremely unlikely that a DUI charge would be resolved by performing community service instead of a conviction.
Prosecutors can make plea offers before trial. However, as a rule, when they believe they can prove the DUI, they do not agree to reduce the charge even for routine cases with people who have never been in trouble before and contribute significantly to the community. It is only when they expect difficulty proving the case that prosecutors make plea agreements that avoid a DUI conviction.
The courts do not allow drivers to do community service in lieu of conviction for DUI unless the prosecutor agrees to it.
Some of the penalties for DUI are mandatory, and the judge has no discretion. Loss of license is automatic and ranges from one year to indefinite revocation. The only discretion the judge has is whether to grant a restricted driver’s license for misdemeanors. For jail time, the court has a bit more discretion, but there are mandatory minimum sentences for all enhanced DUIs. The court must impose the mandatory minimum if it convicts for DUI, but does not have to exceed it.
The only way to avoid these penalties is to avoid being convicted of DUI in the first place, which requires a good defense. If the prosecutor recognizes that she will have trouble, she may offer to eliminate the enhancements or modify the DUI charge to reckless driving which does not require jail time or suspended driver’s license. If that does not happen or is not an acceptable resolution, trial may lead to even better results.