The American court system protects innocent individuals who have been accused of crimes that they did not commit. It enables people to submit a plea bargain in course as well. Throughout history, the system and its laws have changed to take into consideration the needs of society over time. Safeguards were built into the US Constitution to prevent laws similar to England’s separate courts for rich and poor. The system that exists today ensures that due process and fairness govern legal proceedings.
Are Plea Agreements the New Rich/Poor Divide?
Plea agreements, also called a plea bargain, are essentially compromises between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant. The defendant acknowledges that he or she committed a crime in exchange for a lesser penalty than what came with the original charges. What this usually requires is that the prosecutor offers to change the charges against the defendant into “lesser charges.” For example, in a case in which a defendant committed murder, he or she may get the option of pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter to avoid the harsh penalties. Prosecutors typically offer plea agreements when the evidence they have may not be strong enough to convince a jury that the defendant committed the charged crime.
In DUI cases, however, the factors involved in the prosecutor’s decision to offer a plea agreement vary. The evidence gathered almost always includes a reading of the defendant’s blood alcohol content. If the defendant has levels of alcohol in his or her system, the prosecution’s incentives for offering a plea agreement diminish as their likelihood of success at trial is greater. If the prosecutor does not have evidence demonstrating the level of alcohol in a system at the time of an arrest or accident, a defendant or attorney may use this information to negotiate for a plea bargain including lesser charges (e.g., reckless driving or an open container violation).
Given Arizona’s well-known tough stance on DUIs, the laws would not allow a defendant who causes an accident because of drunk driving to plead guilty to something less. But there is some evidence that this is happening—that is, if you are in a position to pay a fine and hold some political clout. This case brings into question whether the councilman received preferential treatment because he was familiar with the laws and the legal system.
While the councilman called it luck, there is a real possibility that by taking advantage of the processing delays for blood tests of blood alcohol levels, a person in the councilman’s position could easily have known that a quick plea bargain could save him from much harsher penalties. In this case, by “cooperating” and quickly entering into negotiations with prosecutors, the councilman received an offer to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He did so, paid a fine, and served his 24-hour sentence before completing his blood test. He showed that he was driving with blood alcohol content of .285, which is a good DUI in Arizona under normal circumstances.
If someone’s careless decision to drink and drive injures you, call the Thompson Law Firm, PLLC. Our professionals can help protect your rights and help put you on the path to recovery.