Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers know it’s difficult to say whether the widely-hailed confession won him any points with prosecutors or the judge, even after he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. In the end, the prosecutor still ended up seeking the maximum penalty (8.5 years) and the judge sentenced him to 6.5 years – six years on the aggravated vehicular manslaughter charge and six months for driving under the influence of alcohol.
In addition to this, the defendant has lost his driving privileges for life.
The video that he recorded, with the help of the non-profit, “Because I Said I would,” went viral on YouTube, garnering some 2 million views.
While many wondered openly whether the video was an attempt to garner sympathy to help the defendant get a more lenient sentence, the widow of the man killed said she believed in his sincerity.
Still, the wisdom of his actions remain questionable. His attorney was later quoted as saying he had no prior knowledge of his client’s involvement in the video and if he had, he almost certainly would have advised against it.
The problem with confessing without the knowledge or approval of your lawyer is that you cede all control of the situation. Not every lawyer might say that the action this young man took was the wrong one, but creating a surprise for your attorney can throw your defense into a tailspin.
Even those who wish to plead guilty for the sake of not involving those injured or survivors of those lost in a drawn-out proceeding can do so while still avoiding a scenario where the case is gift-wrapped for prosecutors. One of the key ways your defense lawyer can do this is through plea deal negotiations.
While plea deals are not our go-to strategy (we often prefer to see whether the evidence warrants the suppression of key evidence that could result in a reduction of charges or, better yet, a dismissal) plea negotiations can be a desired alternative when those options aren’t on the table. What this young man did by offering a very detailed – and very public – confession was to take those options off the table.
When he was first arrested, the defendant in this case denied being drunk or causing the accident.
Still, the main prosecutor said from the very beginning that the case against the defendant was strong. He condemned any platform that would make the defendant out to be a hero.
The judge did not mention the video in the course of the sentencing, so it’s not clear whether it played a role in the ultimate decision. Neither the the defendant nor his family pleaded for leniency. His lawyers asked only for a sentence that was “fair.”
The fact that he was given less than the maximum time behind bars could have been due to a number of other factors, including that he did not have an extensive criminal history.
The bottom line is that generally, it’s unwise to offer up statements about the crime of which you are accused to anyone but your attorney or without your lawyer’s knowledge and approval.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.