The Risks of Negotiating a DWI Plea Arrangement in Louisiana Without a Lawyer

A Jefferson Parish man received a decade in jail and a $5,000 fine for his 2013 DWI conviction. Why was his sentence so severe? Because the year before, the driver, facing four counts of DWI among other charges, negotiated his own plea deal without the assistance of an attorney. That 2012 deal resulted in four convictions on the four DWI counts, meaning that the state was entitled to charge him in 2013 as a fifth-time DWI offender. The Louisiana Court of Appeal recently affirmed his conviction and sentence on the 2013 charge, concluding that the man understood what he was doing when he voluntarily waived his right to an attorney in the first case.

John Henry Boyd, Jr. appeared in court in Jefferson Parish in April 2012 facing four counts of DWI, along with charges of resisting arrest, driving without a license, and possession of alcohol in a vehicle. Boyd, who was proceeding without a lawyer, agreed to take a deal offered by the prosecutor in which he pled guilty on all four DWI charges. In exchange, the state would drop the other charges Boyd was facing. Boyd signed four forms stating that his intent was to waive his rights and plead guilty.

In court, the judge asked Boyd several questions regarding whether the driver understood that he was forfeiting his rights to a lawyer and to fight the DWI charges. The judge informed the driver that he could face more serious penalties if he was charged with another DWI within 10 years. Boyd stated that he understood and wanted to proceed with the plea deal.

Unfortunately for Boyd, law enforcement officers in Jefferson Parish again arrested him for drunk driving in May 2013. The state charged him with DWI, fifth offense. The driver received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Boyd appealed this conviction, arguing that he did not “knowingly and voluntarily” waive his right to a lawyer when he agreed to the 2012 plea deal. If the appeals court accepted this argument, that would mean that the state could not charge him as a fifth-time offender and could not impose the sort of enhanced punishments that Boyd received in 2013.

The driver’s appeal did not succeed, however. In order to use the previous convictions, the state was required to show that the driver pled guilty and that he did so either (1) while represented by a lawyer or (2) after knowingly and voluntarily waiving his right to have a lawyer represent him.

The state passed both of these hurdles in Boyd’s case. There was a clear record showing Boyd’s guilty plea. As for the driver’s waiver of the right to an attorney, he freely and knowingly did so. The four waiver-of-rights forms that the driver signed stated that he had a right to a lawyer and was waiving that right. In open court, the trial judge asked Boyd several questions to deduce whether the man understood what he was doing. Boyd acknowledged that he understood and wanted to go forward anyway.

Based upon this, the appeals court concluded that Boyd’s guilty pleas were legally sound, which meant that the state was entitled to charge the driver as a fifth-time offender on the 2013 charge.

Plea bargains can be a useful way to avoid dealing with the challenges of a trial. However, any negotiated guilty plea carries with it certain collateral risks that you may not fully anticipate. That’s why, when you or a loved one are facing a DWI charge, you should put a skilled legal team on your side. Contact the Louisiana DUI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our DWI/DUI attorneys are highly experienced and can help you make sure that any plea deal you take is one that truly makes sense for you.

For a confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Calculating When an Old DWI Ceases to ‘Count’ Against You Under Louisiana Law, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, April 30, 2015

Challenging Your DWI Sentence in Louisiana, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 27, 2015

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