By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
People say this to me all the time. I honestly admire them when they do. But here’s the thing — you have a right straight from our Constitution to plead not guilty and force the state to prove your guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. If they can’t you are entitled to acquittal regardless of what you did or didn’t do. People who have a problem with that also have a problem with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and our other founding fathers.
Here is the flaw in the “I have to plead guilty” attitude: Just because you’re being remorseful doesn’t mean the law and the prosecutor will be fair. The State of Texas doesn’t have a phone line to the almighty so they can together decide what is and is not justice (regardless of the attitude of many of their prosecutors and policemen).
Take a DWI arrest in Collin County for example. The person is taken to jail which is like a punch in their gut. They have an embarrassing scene on the roadside, and then they have friends or loved ones help them get out which is also humbling. For many, that experience alone may be punishment enough.
The state takes the position that you need to be branded with this forever and they’ve put a price tag on it designed to be as nasty a hardship on your wallet as they can possibly inflict. Not only that, some politician down in the polls 15 or 20 years from now may decide to re-punish you with additional red-tape to prove they are “tough on DWI” (and yes, there have been laws passed this last decade which affect the rights of those convicted in the past).
Also don’t forget you don’t have to prove your innocence at trial. Even if you are guilty, the state often can’t prove it or they make a legal mistake entitling you to acquittal. That is their fault and not yours. Again, you’ve done nothing shameful or dishonest by pleading not guilty.
Merely because a prosecutor or policeman says pleading guilty equals justice doesn’t make it so.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice please directly consult an attorney.