You had a few drinks while you were out with your friends – and the misfortune of being stopped for a traffic violation on the way home. Now, you’re facing charges of driving under the influence (DUI).

You don’t believe that you were in any way impaired at the time, but you really hate the idea of going through a court battle to prove your innocence. Since a first offense is treated as a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania with no jail time involved, is it better to just plead guilty and get it over with?

Not at all. A guilty plea means giving up some important rights and it can negatively affect your future in several ways. For example:

You give up the right to maintain your innocence

Pleading guilty means openly acknowledging in court that you were driving while drunk – and that can be a hard thing to accept if you believe you’re innocent. It’s embarrassing to have a drunk driving charge on your record – which will show up in any background check. You may find yourself vainly trying to explain the situation for decades to come.

Should you ever be pulled over again, you can also expect the prior drunk driving charge to make officers instantly suspicious that you may be driving drunk all over again. That could color their perceptions of you and lead to additional charges.

That first DUI conviction will then impact you in another way. If you’re convicted a second time, you face mandatory jail time that could range from five days to six months, plus increased fines and a 12-month license suspension.

You give up the right to significant freedoms

There’s no 100% guarantee what a judge will do when you plead guilty. While you may expect a “slap on the wrist,” the reality is that you could be given probation for up to six months.

During that time, you could be required to attend treatment or counseling for substance abuse disorders and your actions will be closely monitored by the court. That may feel incredibly constraining if the charges are unjust.

When you’re facing a DUI charge in PA, don’t give up and plead guilty if you don’t believe the charges are fair. There are defense options available to you.