Thursday, May 22, 2014

What is a "nolo contendere" plea in a DUI case

If you have been following the news lately, specifically news related to the NFL.  You undoubtedly will have seen that Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers recently resolved his criminal problems via a "nolo contendere" plea.  He entered this plea to three felony counts and two DUI counts.  If you like you can read it about it here.  So what is this "nolo contendere" plea and how does it work?

Well first of all what does it mean.  "Nolo contendere" is a latin phrase that translates to no contest.  In certain U.S. jurisdictions this type of plea is allowed where a defendant enters this plea of no contest.  Neither admitting guilt nor disputing the charge.  It effectively works as a guilty plea in the sense the charges still result in a conviction, the defendant is still sentenced as if they pleaded guilty.  Unlike a guilty plea however the defendant may not be required to allocute the charges.

So why we Aldon Smith do this.  If you followed his cases then you know there was a lot of evidence stacked up against him.  Due to the string of criminal offenses, plus his notoriety he problem wasn't going to be them.  This was a way for him to take responsibility but not admit guilt.  Its a technicality but still shows some accountability on his part.  

Now this is a Washington State specific blog.  So if you're wondering whether Washington State would allow a "no contest" plea on a DUI case.  Unfortunately not.  However we do have what is called an Alford Plea.  Many view it the same as a no contest plea.  Although there is different terminology.  

In an Alford Plea on a DUI case here in Washington State.  A defendant would say they believe there is enough evidence to convict them of the DUI.  Therefore they wish to take advantage of the Prosecutors sentence recommendation and enter an Alford Plea.  They understand it will result in a conviction the same as if they went to trial.  

How often does an Alford Plea happen in DUI cases here in Washington State.  Not many.  In my 10 years I think I have only entered one Alford Plea.  Most times Prosecutors will not allow it because they want the defendant to actually say they are guilty.  Additionally if a person is pleading guilty to a DUI or even a lesser charge they probably don't believe they are completely innocent.

However an Alford Plea is an option a defendant would have in Washington State.  If it is something that interests anyone facing a DUI in King County, WA and you're reading this blog feel free to contact my office and we can discuss the pros and cons of it.

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  He is rated a perfect 10 out of 10 by, a lawyer rating service.  Additionally he has been repeatedly named a Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all lawyers receive in their respective field of practice.  Contact Leyba Defense to find a DUI Attorney in the Seattle area.   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

DUI suspect in Spokane arrested for DUI following plea to vehicular asault

In a case of you would have to see it to believe it.  A man in Spokane, WA recently was arrested for DUI on the same day he pleaded guilty to vehicular assault.  Yes you read that correctly.  A man in Spokane, WA was out on $93,000 bond until his sentencing on the vehicular assault case, when he decided he had to booze it up one last time and got arrested for DUI and hit and run.  

This has to be one of the most stupid things I have ever read.  I understand people make mistakes.  Trust me, nobody understands more than I do.  Im a DUI Attorney in Seattle, so I understand.  But when you enter a guilty plea to a vehicular assault charge, you're out on bail pending sentencing, and then you decide it's a good idea to get drunk and then drive.  I'm sorry but that is just pure stupidity.  

Because of that guys actions.  The plea he entered is in jeopardy.  He will probably get the high end of whatever is sentencing range.  His bond will most likely be remanded and he will remain in custody until his sentencing.  Oh and his new DUI.  I'm pretty sure regardless of the facts his bail will be extremely high, plus he can forget about getting any deals on that case.  

Whenever I have a client in this position.  Where they are either out on bail pending sentencing, or they are free on their own personal recognizance pending sentencing I tell them one thing.  And one thing only.  Stay out of trouble.  If you have to stay in your house the entire time then do it.  If you feel compelled to drink stay home.  Heck I have even told a client if they cannot following my advice and they are going to go out and drink call me and I will either pay for a cab or come and pick them up.  You wouldn't believe the decisions some people make because of this disease.  

Anyway here is a link to the article if you want to check it out.  Spokane man gets DUI.   

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle.  If you're facing a DUI Arrest and looking for a DUI Attorney then give me a call.  I have been repeatedly recognized as one of the best DUI Attorneys in Seattle by the Seattle Met Magazine.  I'm also rated a perfect 10 out of 10 by, a lawyer rating service.  You can read more about me here.   

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is Affluenza real?

Well another rich guy seemingly got off on his DUI and now there is an uproar by the general public over the sentence.  And the term "affluenza" has been raised again.  In case you didn't hear it the first time.  "Affluenza" was an actual defense coined by a defense attorney in the defense of a texas teen who received rehab at a luxurious 4 star resort rather than go to jail.  This time the term  is being thrown around here in Washington State due to a sentence a repeat DUI offender received last week.

I have to say as a Seattle DUI Attorney I'm slightly miffed by the general public's reaction to this latest case.  Long story short.  A guy driving a Ferrari gets into an accident, leads police a high speed, subsequently pleads guilty to DUI, and gets work release in lieu of 24 hour confinement in jail.  Basically he leaves jail in the morning.  Goes to work and runs his business which employs many people.  Goes back to jail and spends the night.  Gets up and does it all over again.

The people that are upset need to realize a couple of things.  First a DUI carries a max penalty of 1 year in jail here in WA State.  That is what this guy agreed to.  The max penalty, he couldn't agree to do more.  Secondly work release is a common alternative given to those in custody.  I have seen homeless folk get granted that type of sentence from a Judge (now whether they actually qualified is a different story).  Lastly there is a reason this guy got that sentence despite his prior DUI arrests.  The case most likely was dog shit for the Prosecution.  They offered a plea deal because there was proof problems.  That is how the system works.  If a Prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant is guilty than they ethically shouldn't proceed to trial.  

This is just my opinion.  Yes Im a DUI Attorney in Seattle.  But I'm also a resident of the State of Washington and I still feel safe despite this guy going to work in the mornings.

Here is my website.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New definition of what constitutes a "prior offense" for DUI sentencing purposes in WA

Last month a major DUI law was changed in Washington State when it comes to DUI sentencing.  The bill responsible SB 6413 drastically alters what can be considered a "prior offense" when it comes to DUI sentencing.  Prior to this change the law was pretty clear.  Now not so much in opinion despite what the bill set out to accomplish.

As I stated prior to this law if you were arrested for a DUI then your sentence for the most part was determined based on the number of "prior offenses" you had.  For example lets say you were arrested for a DUI in Seattle in 2008.  That DUI charged was reduced to Negligent Driving 1.  You then were arrested for a DUI in 2010.  The DUI in 2010 would be considered a second offense DUI because the first case originally was a DUI then it got reduced. 

Essentially if you got arrested for a DUI and that charged was reduced to another criminal offense then it was considered a prior offense.  Pretty straight forward, right.  Well SB 6413 changes all of this.  Now a prior offense can include any of the following: driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence, a BUI, operating an aircraft while under the influence, operating an off road vehicle while under the influence, and my favorite operating a snowmobile while under the influence.  

As a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, I have to say I do not understand what this accomplishes.  All of these offenses do not carry any of the consequences a DUI does other than being a criminal charge.  So why are they treated the same as a DUI when it comes to sentencing.  Why not stop there?  Why not include any alcohol related offense?  A minor in possession of alcohol, or an open container?  Obviously I am being factious, but you get my point. 

Unfortunately the DUI laws just happened to get a lot tougher in Washington State and this new law only shows how difficult things are becoming.  

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  He is the firm owner of Leyba Defense PLLC a DUI law firm located in the heart of downtown Seattle.  He practice focuses on representing those charged with DUI and DUI related offenses.