Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why did Seattle DUI defendant Mark Mullen plead not guilty at his Arraignment?

Several non lawyer friends of mine have asked me some questions about this case.  In case you're not familiar with the facts.  Mark Mullen is the defendant in a vehicular homicide case where he had multiple DUI convictions, had two pending DUI cases one in Seattle Municipal Court and the other Snohomish County District Court and he killed several innocent pedestrians and critically injured another.  There has been a lot of questions why this guy was on the street, why he didn't have the court ordered ignition interlock device in his vehicle, and how something like this could have been prevented.  

Recently he had his first court date on the new vehicular homicide charges and he entered a not guilty plea.  Some of my friends were wondering how he could do this when the evidence was so stacked against him already based on the news accounts they had heard.  My answer to them is pretty simple this is how the criminal justice runs.

Despite how you feel about Mr. Mullen he is entitled to have representation.  He will be given an attorney if he cannot afford one.  Certain rights attach to him now that criminal charges have been filed.  Things like the right to counsel, the right to a jury of his peers, the right to remain silent, the right to have the Prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt these charges, and the most important the presumption of innocence. 

By entering a plea of Not Guilty at his arraignment does not necessarily mean he won't take responsibility for this later on, or he won't be found guilty in the end.  The arraignment is not the place to dispute charges, challenge evidence, or really plead guilty.  It is an informal hearing where the charge will be read in open court.  The defendant or the accused will enter a formal not guilty plea, and the Judge will determine whether there is probable case to hold, and then determine what conditions if any the defendant must follow while the case is going on.  In Mr. Mullen's case that is $2.5 million in bail. So he is not going anywhere anytime soon.

So before you get up in arms that this man plead not guilty.  Remember we are all afforded these rights.  Whether you have never been in trouble before, or whether you have a lengthy criminal history.  As a Seattle DUI lawyer this is just something I understand, and second nature to me.  So it is completely understandable how a non lawyer may question what is going on.  But this is how it works, and this is why our criminal justice system works. 

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DU Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently rated as a Top DUI lawyer by Avvo, and was named a 2013 Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine, and Seattle Metropolitan. 

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