When we meet with clients, at some point, they almost invariably ask if they should plead guilty to the pending DWI charges. These people are understandably worried because, in most cases, they had been drinking. And, police officers usually tell defendants they have more than enough evidence to convict them.
However, there is a big difference between moral guilt and legal guilt. There’s also a big difference between “substantial evidence” and proof beyond any reasonable doubt.
What to Do at an Arraignment
During the arraignment, the judge or magistrate asks the defendant to enter a plea to the charge. The options are typically guilty, nolo contedere (no contest), or not guilty.
By pleading guilty to DWI at this point, your freedom is at the whim of the courts and your driving privileges are completely the hands of the North Carolina DMV. In addition, the judge may impose the maximum penalty, before a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer has a chance to evaluate the case and find all possible defenses.
On the other hand, if the plea is not guilty, the judge resets the case for a pretrial hearing. That hearing will probably be in front of a different judge in a different courtroom. The extra time gives the defendant a chance to partner with a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer who will investigate the facts, review the state’s evidence, and thoroughly evaluate all options. Then, based on the lawyer’s advise, the defendant can better decide what to do. Many times, a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer can establish innocence in court, get the case dismissed, or negotiate a more favorable plea bargain.
During the plea bargaining process, the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney agree to a compromise. In exchange for the defendant’s voluntary no contest or guilty plea, the prosecutor reduces the charges and/or lowers the penalty. The court saves time by removing the case from the trial list, the defendant escapes full punishment, and the prosecutor gets a conviction. If there is a defense, like lack of intoxication evidence or an illegal stop, the arrangement will be even more defendant-friendly. On the other hand, if the prosecutor’s evidence is particularly strong, the plea bargain will not be as favorable.
The bottom line is that even if you think you were over the legal limit, a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer can reduce the sentence or even get the charges dismissed. For prompt assistance, contact the professional team at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law. Go online now or call us at (919) 887-8040.