Preparing for Court When Pleading Guilty
Most of the time if you are pleading guilty it is because your lawyer has successfully engaged in plea bargaining with the prosecutor. Consequently, preparation for court when pleading guilty really begins to take place almost as soon as you first hire your lawyer. Therefore, the total preparation will take place over several weeks or months, and sometimes even years before you are set to appear in court. At a minimum the following things should have occurred before you plead guilty.
- You’ve reviewed all the discovery with your attorney.
- You’ve discussed possible defenses with your attorney.
- Your lawyer has explained to you all your trial rights, including your right to remain silent, your right to call witnesses and your right to present a defense.
- You’ve discussed your chances of success at trial with your attorney.
- You’ve had a chance to ask and have all your questions answered by your attorney.
- You understand why a particular plea agreement has been reached as opposed to any other possible outcomes
- You understand what to expect at sentencing.
- You’ve thought about the decision carefully and agree that pleading guilty is in your best interest.
Before pleading guilty you should discuss with your attorney the exact nature of the crime you are pleading guilty to. You should also be advised what to expect insofar as sentencing is concerned, including any punitive aspects that may be imposed, such as jail time, any driver license sanction that might be imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State, and any collateral consequences that may arise from your plea of guilty. You should not plead guilty unless and until you are satisfied that all your questions have been answered and you know exactly what rights you’re giving up by pleading guilty.
Also, before pleading guilty, you should understand the elements of the crime you are pleading guilty to. All crimes are composed of elements, and you will need to admit to all the elements of the crime before the judge will accept your plea of guilty. Before you appear in court to tender your plea of guilty you should discuss what you need to admit to in order to meet this obligation. Sometimes plea agreements are based on legal fictions and the factual basis can be complicated. You will want to be sure you understand what to say because the judge will become frustrated if your lawyer says you’re pleading guilty but you have not been coached on the factual basis, and the judge is not satisfied that our admission of guilt fulfills the applicable court rules and law.
For example, a common reduction in a first offense drunk driving is from OWI, operating while intoxicated, to OWVI, operating while visibly impaired. In this case you will need to admit that before drinking driving you consumed enough alcohol to become impaired and then drove your vehicle within the jurisdiction of the court. In establishing that factual basis, the judge will often ask questions related to when and where you were stopped, the amount of alcohol that you consumed, whether you agree that the amount of alcohol you consumed impaired your ability to operate the motor vehicle, and so on. the court will typically also ask your lawyer to agree or stipulate to the chemical test result so that it may to be admitted into evidence for purposes of the plea.
For more information about what happens in court when you plead guilty see:
Special Advice When Pleading Guilty on a Drunk Driving Case – Be Honest About How Much You Drank!
It is essential when pleading guilty to a drunk driving charge that you admit drinking an amount of alcohol that is consistent with your chemical test. A failure to do so could result in adverse consequences, and in this case, honesty is most definitely the best policy. Consequently, before pleading guilty, you may want to read this article concerning how many drinks it takes to get to the legal limit. As a very general rule of thumb however, you can take the reported test result and divide it by two. The result of this simple math will provide you with the rough number of drinks it took to get to your breath or blood test result. By way of example, if your breath test is .15 then you must have had between 7-8 “standard” drinks. If you don’t remember drinking that much, then simply indicating that you don’t remember is far better than arguing with the judge and trying to maintain that you only drank a couple of drinks.
For more detailed information about the legal limit in Michigan see:
- How Many Drinks Does it Take to Reach the Legal Limit?
- BAC Limits in DUI Cases.