In my practice, having my client take a guilty plea is a last resort, not a first option.
When a DUI client comes to me, I first review all the evidence against him or her for any possible defense. Did you show evidence of impairment on the police squad video? Was the arrest based on probable cause? Can the state prove you were driving and that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
But sometimes the state’s case is overwhelming. For example, the police may have you on video swerving all over the road or you may have blown a high score on a properly administered breathalyzer. In those cases, your best option may be to negotiate as favorable a plea agreement as possible.
Before negotiating a plea, you must obtain an alcohol evaluation from a court-approved facility. In Cook County, Central States Institute is the designated agency. After an interview, you will receive a weighted score. This score and your prior DUI history will be factored into any plea agreement.
Depending on the jurisdiction or the courtroom, I will negotiate a plea with either the state’s attorney or village prosecutor. In some cases, the judge may conduct a “402 conference.” In a 402 conference, the prosecutor and I meet with the judge in his or her chambers to discuss your case. At that time, I will advocate for why you deserve a more lenient sentence. The judge will then make a recommendation regarding sentencing.
If you accept the recommendation or offer, you will then plead guilty. In doing so, you agree to give up any rights to confront witnesses, go to trial or present evidence in your defense.
If the recommendation or offer is not agreeable, you can reject it and take your chances at trial.
In negotiating a plea, it helps to have an attorney who is respected at the courthouse and knows the players involved. The prosecutor does not have an incentive to make a good offer to an attorney who never goes to trial. An attorney who is familiar with the prosecutor and judges has a better understanding of what to say on your behalf—or what not to say.
If you have questions about this or another related Illinois DUI or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)