Have you been charged with a crime? Just because you think you may be guilty, does not automatically mean you will be found guilty of your criminal charge or traffic violation. Under the law, you are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty! There are many evidentiary, procedural, and tactical scenarios that may result in you being found not guilty or having your charges dismissed.
Ok, so you’ve been charged with a criminal charge or traffic violation. Most people generally fall into one of two categories: Those who believe they are not guilty of the crime that they have been charged with, and those who readily admit their guilt in the hopes of having their charges reduced or receiving a less severe punishment. For those of you who fall into the first category, you are on the right track! For those of you who fall into the second category, this article is for you! One of the most frustrating things that I encounter in my job is when a client comes to me and says “I think I am guilty…..shouldn’t I just take a plea bargain?” The answer, in the majority of cases, is a resounding “NO”!!!! Let’s look at the charge of Driving While Impaired (DWI), for example.
In North Carolina, a person is guilty of Driving While Impaired if they A. operate B. a motor vehicle C. while under the influence of an impairing substance or with a BAC of 0.08% or more at any relevant time after driving. (N.C.G.S. 20-138.1) Although that definition may seem fairly simple, there are many issues that can harm the government’s case againt a criminal defendant. For example, if you were in a wreck and had already exited the vehicle prior to the police or emergency crews arriving, the prosecutor may have difficulty proving you were the driver of the vehicle (for more information on this issue, see State v. Trexler, 316 N.C. 528, 342 S.E.2d 878 (1986). Or, the police officer may not have had reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull you over, which could lead to a dismissal. Or, even if you were pulled over for a valid reason, the police officer may not have had enough evidence to arrest you for suspicion of driving while impaired. Or, there may be some evidentiary defect that will prevent the prosecution from introducing your blood alcohol concentration in court. Furthermore, even if your BAC reading is used in court, it is not the be all and end all. Just because you blew a 0.08% or higher, does not automatically mean you are guilty. Recent North Carolina case law states that the results of a chemical analysis showing the blood alchohol concentration of a criminal defendant’s blood is simply one factor to consider in determining guilt or innocence, and does not create a legal presumption of guilt. There are many possible defenses to a charge of Driving While Impaired, and you should make sure that you contact an attorney who is willing to thoroughly evaluate your case and is not afraid to raise these defenses in court!
In Wake County, the prosecutors simply will not reduce a charge of DWI to a lesser crime. This means that the only way to be found not guilty or have your charge dismissed is to fight for your innocence. In the majority of situations, there is no advantage to tendering a plea of guilty and you will not be penalized for taking your charge of Driving While Impaired to trial…..in other words, if you are ultimately convicted of DWI, your punishment will be no different than if you had pled guilty without a trial. This means you should always, always, exercise your right to a trial. The same holds true with most criminal charges and traffic violations. To obtain favorable results, your attorney must be willing to fight for your rights in court. The moral of the story: You can’t win, if you don’t fight!