A local Norfolk man, Peter Olin Teneyck, recently pleaded guilty to charges of DUI and involuntary manslaughter for a crash that happened last May. In that accident, Teneyck struck and killed a bicyclist while under the influence. To many, the guilty plea was a surprise—which prompts the question, when should you plead guilty to a DUI charge?
The short answer is never, unless your lawyer suggests otherwise. During and following an arrest police will try many tactics to get you to confess, including trying to trick you into an admission and pretending to be sympathetic. While you should cooperate with police, following their instructions and even giving a breath, blood or urine sample if it’s required of you, it’s usually best to decline to answer questions—much less admit guilt—until you’ve received legal counsel.
The reason for this is partly because DUI cases are notoriously hard to prove. Even seemingly scientific evidence like a breath analysis can be subject to errors. Many DUI cases come down to an officer’s judgment call as to whether you appeared drunk at the scene, which is obviously a subjective opinion. Without a confession or a guilty plea, prosecutors may not have a strong case at all.
The other reason simply has to do with consequences. While we’d all like to believe our justice system is fair, the truth is that DUI penalties are hefty and often far outstrip the crime—even if no one was hurt. Its often better to hold out for a lighter charge or an acquittal.
But there are times when a lawyer will advise you to plead guilty. These include:
- When there’s a plea bargain available. In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors will sometimes offer a lesser charge or recommend the judge show leniency in sentencing. In some cases this is a good option.
- To seek leniency. There are times when it’s simply unlikely to win a case. At this point a lawyer may recommend you plead guilty as a show of good faith and ask the judge for mercy.
Teneyck’s case doesn’t seem to have involved a plea bargain. This was his second DUI offense, and the charges he ultimately pled to—second offense DUI and manslaughter—are the most serious ones the prosecution could have brought against him. Instead, it’s likely that Teneyck feels true remorse about what happened, as any person would in his situation. He seems to be taking accountability for his actions.
At The Wilson Law Firm we know that facing a DUI charge brings many difficult decisions. We’re here to provide experienced legal counsel to anyone accused of DUI. Call us for a free consultation today.