What Actually Happens When You Plead Guilty to a DUI

An arrest for DWI causes most people a great deal of anxiety. Breath testing and booking are a nightmare that they can not believe is happening. It often takes several days to begin sleeping somewhat regularly again, and the pending DWI charge is always in the back of their mind no matter what else they may be doing throughout the day. Even months later, the thought of appearing in front of a judge to plead guilty to a DWI brings back all of those terrible feelings and emotions felt when first arrested. So what can you expect? What is the process? A little knowledge about what really occurs will hopefully help reduce your fear and anxiety. Here’s what happens.

Appropriate Dress and Conduct

In Union County North Carolina, Assistant District Attorneys and District Court Judges are very professional and respectful towards citizens. There is a code of dress and conduct that the deputies will reinforce. You will need to dress and act appropriately. No hats. No cutoff jeans or suggestive clothing. Put cellphones on silent, and refrain from talking. In other words, remember at all times that you are in a court of law.

Private Counsel or Court-Appointed Lawyer

When charged with a Monroe DUI, you absolutely should retain private counsel if you can. You should appreciate that not all court-appointed lawyers focus their practices on DWI cases. And, if you lose you case or plead guilty, the State will require you to reimburse any resulting legal fees. Court-appointed is NOT free representation.

Whether you hire your own attorney or seek assisted representation, the DUI guilty plea process is the same. After an initial roll call, individual cases will be called in a seemingly random order. That’s because represented cases are usually handled first as a courtesy to the lawyers who need to resolve their matters and move on to other courts or get back to their offices. Guilty pleas typically follow next and then trials start in the afternoon.

DUI Guilty Plea | Aggravating Factors

When your name is called, you will make your way to the front of the courtroom. You will wait to be directed to come stand beside your Monroe DWI lawyer at the table on the right. The prosecutor and assistants usually sit at the table to the left next to the jury box. The prosecutor will begin the proceeding by asking your lawyer how you plead to the charge of DWI? Your lawyer will respond to the judge “guilty” and then wait for the District Attorney to describe the facts of the case.

Interestingly, judges always want to know if you (the defendant) were polite and cooperative.  The judge will then learn of any “grossly aggravating” and/or “aggravating” factors and will usually ask what was the blood alcohol content (BAC) when tested.

Mitigating Factors | Expression of Remorse

Next, your lawyer speaks on your behalf. The usual presentation involves your age, profession, any prior DUI arrests, and any “mitigating” factors that might offset or even negate the bad factors just recited. In addition, I believe it is always appropriate, if sincere, for clients to express remorse for their bad choice and error in judgement. Such apology must be genuine but can be effective as people rarely express regret in court. Words are great but are cheap if not coupled with action. Prior to coming to court to enter a DUI guilty plea, I also encourage our clients to obtain a current alcohol assessment and to complete all recommended treatment. This demonstrates to the judge that you are serious about your case.

Post Trial Limited Driving Privilege

Unless your lawyer has prepared a post-trial LDP for the judge to sign, you will need to bring a friend or family member to court because you cannot even legally drive yourself home. If there are no complicating factors (prior DWI, BAC of 0.15% or greater, or breath testing refusal), there should be no issue with getting the judge to sign your LDP petition and filing it with the Court on the way out of the courthouse.

However, if you have been found to have “willfully refused” breath testing by the NC DMV, you cannot get a LDP for six (6) months after a DUI guilty plea. And further, if your BAC level was 0.15% or higher when tested, you will be required to have an “ignition interlock” installed in your vehicle and must wait forty-five (45) days for a LDP. In those situations, you will need to make arrangements to get a ride home or risk arrest and even more serious charges.

Monroe DWI Attorney Robert J. Reeves

Mr. Reeves has over 25 years trial experience in both civil and criminal courts and is licensed to practice law in both North Carolina and South Carolina.  He provides all of his clients with his personal mobile phone number and direct email address. He appreciates the importance of being able to speak with your lawyer and returns all phone messages the same day. For a private review and consultation of your Monroe DWI case, you can contact Mr. Reeves directly at 704-351-7979 or email Robert@RJRlaw.com. Call today and let’s see what options you may have.