If you are arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, your first court appearance is known as an arraignment. Your arraignment is your opportunity to announce to the court your initial plea of guilty or not guilty. While you have the right to plead guilty at your arraignment, it is never a good idea to do so. Below, we discuss the drawbacks of pleading guilty to DWI at your arraignment.
Your Fate is in the Hands of the Judge
At your arraignment, there are no plea bargains. Unlike in some cases, there will be no negotiated plea agreement. This leaves you with total uncertainty as to your potential consequences, given that the judge can sentence you to any penalty that fits within the statutory minimums or maximums. While a plea bargain is rarely in your best interest, pleading guilty at arraignment is never a good idea.
You Waive your Right to Discovery
At your arraignment, you will have limited information on the strength of the State's case. If you were to plead not guilty, you have the opportunity to engage in discovery. Discovery is the exchange of evidence to be used at trial. Through discovery, you or your lawyer get a relatively complete picture of the evidence against you.
Police officers are human, and they make mistakes like the rest of us. During the discovery phase, those mistakes could come to light. If law enforcement violated your rights at any point, you could have a powerful defense against a DWI charge. However, if you plead guilty at arraignment you will never get that opportunity.
You Waive your Right to a Trial
A trial by jury is one of the best opportunities for most defendants to avoid a conviction for DWI. While prevailing at trial is never easy, these cases are often defensible. By giving up your right to a trial, you are giving up your best opportunity to obtain a positive outcome in your case.
You Give up your Opportunity to Speak with a Lawyer
The most important step following your arrest for DWI is to speak with an experienced lawyer right away. However, if you plead guilty at the arraignment, you could be giving up your chance to speak with legal counsel before the plea is entered. By pleading not guilty, you will give your prospective legal counsel the chance to review your case thoroughly and advise you of your options.
Discuss your Case with a Houston DWI Lawyer
Following your arrest for DWI, you have options. While it is your right to plead guilty at arraignment, it is never in your best interest. In fact, pleading guilty to a DWI is rarely the best course of action.
Attorney Doug Murphy is one of Houston's top DWI defense lawyers. In his experience, preparing for every trial has often resulted in the best outcome for his clients. The consequences of a DWI conviction are steep, even for first-time DWI offenders. Given what is at stake, it is crucial that you discuss your options with the Doug Murphy before entering a guilty plea.