Should I Plead Guilty To A Dui Charge

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Welcome to Florida Criminal Law TV. My name is Stephen Cobb and of course, we are doing our casual Friday answering of questions that people have been asking me and it has been a lot of fun doing Florida Criminal Law TV for so many years and I really enjoy this casual Friday being able to help educate people because now I am going to show you there are such things as stupid questions. All of our life, we have heard “Well, there is no such thing as a stupid question”. Let me help you, yes there are. There really are stupid questions and you are about to hear one. Now, someone wrote in and they did not realize this was a stupid question, okay. And that is because they do not know what they do not know so they do not have. If they knew, they would do and to know and not to do is really you do not know. So, let’s make sure that you know so that you do the right things and you do not blow your life up because this person wrote something that is similar to a question we receive quite often and this question was, “Should I plead guilty for DUI charge?” How am I supposed to know that? I have not seen an arrest report, probable cause statement, breath test affidavit, discovery exhibit, witness check-off list, I have not received Intoxylizer reports, nothing at all. I know nothing about the facts and someone is actually asking me, “Should I plead guilty to a DUI charge?” How do I know if there is a technical defense to get the breath test thrown out if I have not looked at any of the evidence? How do I know that the stop, search and seizure was done correctly if I have not even looked at the evidence?

So, the answer is I do not know, I cannot possibly tell that. Now, I could give really bad advice and say, “No, you should not”, or, “Yes, you should”, but the reality is, the proper method is to open a file, file initial pleadings for the defense, gather information, review the case law and do all the things you do and you work a case in order to determine if there are any defenses, and then if there are or there are not, at the same time, you are also looking for mitigation of sentence. Can we get the charge substituted to reckless driving? If there is a jail offer, can we get rid of it? If there is a vehicle impound, which is very common, do one of the four statutory exceptions apply to vehicle impound on sentencing? All of these things, the answer is, maybe, I do not know, I need more information. So, I cannot answer that question that somebody with a straight face posed. They do not know it is a stupid question, so that is why I am educating you and everybody else. And here is another one we get on a regular basis that came to mind the moment I looked at my tablet and saw that this was one of the questions and the question we often get is “How much do you charge for a DUI”, “How much do you charge for a sex offense”, “How much do you charge for”, that is why we have an initial consultation and even before that, we have a very specific what is called Intake Interview Process where we gather background information. In order to set a fee, I need to know things like what are the client’s expectations? Is this a case where you want it appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court or are you just looking for a favorable plea bargain? Is this a case where we have to do lots of discovery depositions, testimony taken outside of court or not, is this a case that is going to result in a jail time offer or not? Are there any hidden aggravators where somebody might think, “Well, it is my first offense DUI, I am going to be fine”, and then they go to court, they handle it on their own and I am sitting there waiting my turn hearing this person go through a very long plea colloquy. What is the plea colloquy? That is a conversation between a judge and a defendant prior to the acceptance of a no contest or a guilty plea. And when I hear the judge going on extra long in an arraignment court proceeding, I normally do not go to arraignment court, most lawyers do not, you can file written pleadings, but on those occasions when I have because at the end of the docket, I may need to bring up a matter that is not technically on the docket but the prosecutor is there, the judge in the case is there so we bring it up. And I have sat there on more than one occasions and witnessed this long plea colloquy by a self-represented defendant, and boom! They get all the stuff the internet told them they would get plus an unexpected 30, 60, 90-day jail sentence because of something buried deep in the discovery that they do not know is an aggravating factor but an experienced criminal defense lawyer will know if it is an aggravating factor. And before a sentence is imposed when someone wants to just plead no contest or guilty, I have this weird belief that I like to know, not guess, I want to know what the judge is going to say.

The only exception is if we do a plea of no contest where there is going to be sentencing left up to the judge, then we do not know, or if you are looking at a trial and there is going to be a jury because in my career, almost every person during a jury trial, after the trial has been concluded and the jury is walking out, they turn and they go, “What do you think they are going to do”. My response has been the same for over 25 years. You will find out when I find out, and that is just how it is. So, when I am asked the question like, “Should I plead guilty to the DUI charge, how much is the legal fee for”, without having any background information, client expectations or other information, I cannot answer that and neither can any other lawyer. So, if you or someone you love is accused of a crime, the smartest thing you can do is to call a skilled criminal defense lawyer, whether it is me or someone else, preferably a certified specialist, someone who has gone through the Florida Bar’s board certification program so you do not have to guess that the social media reviews are fake or real or good or bad because that is the ultimate social media review board certification because it means an actual specialist in criminal law. And if you are using a legal team, which is the modern approach, you want to make sure that at least one person on that team is a specialist because that person is going to be responsible for tactics and strategy and delegating work and figuring out how to tear the case apart and put it back together in the most favorable way for you.

So, before you try to handle something on your own, make sure that you contact a skilled criminal defense attorney or a law firm, and if we can help you, just give us a call. We will be more than happy to speak with you, and if not, call somebody if you are in a different state or another part of the state or you are concerned that I am too far away or whatever but do not just walk in and plead no contest or guilty until you have had adequate time to discuss your case and determine factual information, both good and bad, and you have had the advice of skilled legal counsel.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.