Friday, July 6, 2012

Ithaca Cortland Traffic Lawyer When is a Guilty Plea Not a Guilty Plea?

The fast answer is "when the guilty plea is qualified" it is NOT an acceptable plea of guilt. Judges must accept pleas, they must give their consent before the plea is accepted and sentencing is announced.

I have people call me about speeding tickets. This one caller wanted to know why since they checked off the guilty box, ie. sent in a plea of guilty to the Court,

Why did they receive back a response letter that stated that the Judge had set it for trial? They didn't ask for a trial?

How did that happen? Why did that happen? So many questions so little time.

If the Court (Judge) had accepted the guilty plea they would have just assessed a fine (based on a range), and the applicable NYS surcharge. If the plea was accepted they would have received a fine notice letter but they did not.

What they forgot to tell me was that they checked the guilty box BUT also included an explanation. This little explanation amounted to qualifying the plea. I am guilty BUT not really because my speedometer was broken, or I wasn't really going that speed, or the road was not clearly marked.

Judges cannot accept pleas of guilt that are not complete, voluntary, and based in fact. More serious criminal cases involve an allocution. This is where you (under oath) must state for the record you are not under the influence of any drugs, in a right state of mind, realize and understand all the rights you are relinquishing, potential consequences of pleading guilty, nature of the charges, and give facts that prove to the Court that you did in fact have a basis in fact for your plea of guilt.

If you in any way are denying guilt or refuting some or all of the charges against you that amounts to a NOT guilty plea. If you did nothing at all (no plea) the Judge must assume you are entering a NOT guilty plea. My advice is to consult with an attorney before committing to any plea.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., J.D.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850