This is my first blog on DUI defense and related matters. So if you are reading this, welcome! I will try to blog every week. In the coming weeks and months I will be discussing issues of importance to DUI defendants and defense lawyers since a major part of what we do is translate the legal system to our clients, their family and friends to make what can be a stressful and confusing experience understandable.
Today I want to talk about whether to go to trial or plead guilty in state court. Every day I go to court I see defendants plead guilty to drunk driving charges who might be able to win their cases. Some lawyers advise their clients to plead guilty when they haven’t even checked to see if the officer is present in court. Don’t get me wrong. If a person accused of drunk driving is truly remorseful, pleading guilty can be a cathartic experience. But putting the State to its proof is not diametrically opposed to remorse. It is the way the system was designed to work. If the State cannot prove my client is guilty then he or she is not guilty. If the State wins, we can show plenty of remorse then.
The question I ask before advising a client is whether the client is better going to trial or pleading guilty. Another way of asking this is, is there a trial tax or penalty? Well, when a person is accused of having committed a serious felony and is likely to be convicted at trial, and the accepting the plea offer means the client will be in jail for a significantly shorter period of time, then taking the plea makes sense. But in the typical DUI case, the State offers the exact same thing or worse than would happen if the defendant is found guilty. So what is the benefit? At least with a trial, the defendant might not be found guilty.
The approach of the lawyers in my firm is that we start with the assumption that the case is going to be a trial and we are going to plead not guilty to all of the charges. From that starting point, only if there are really good reasons would we recommend that the client plead guilty.
If you are facing serious traffic charges in Maryland state or federal court, interview with a couple of different lawyers. Ask them if they are planning to go to trial or to plead guilty. Call Leonard R. Stamm or Johanna Leshner of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.