When you have been arrested for operating while impaired in Michigan, prosecutors may try to convince you not to mount on OWI defense. Instead, prosecutors may want you to agree to a plea deal before your case goes to trial. A prosecutor could offer to allow you to plead guilty to a less serious crime than you would be charged with if your case went to court. Prosecutors could also offer you a sentence that is less than the maximum penalty you might get if convicted of OWI.
While a plea agreement may seem tempting, and prosecutors try to make it seem that way, pleading guilty is not always the best choice. You need to be informed of your rights and should speak with an attorney before agreeing to a plea so you can find out if you might have other options that would leave you better off in the long term.
Considerations Before Accepting a Plea Deal in an OWI Case
One major issue to be aware of before you accept a plea agreement is prosecutors may not actually be fully explaining all of the implications that are associated with admitting you broke the law and drove while impaired. Prosecutors do have a duty to tell you about the criminal penalties you face. However, Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties warns prosecutors are not providing information to defendants about extrajudicial consequences associated with admitting guilt in a criminal case.
For many defendants "full force of a criminal conviction is only felt and known after the most immediate consequences." In other words, the criminal penalties are not the complete penalty and may not even be the worst penalty. In the case of a OWI, for example, you may face fines and court costs but the highest costs may come in lost opportunity for jobs requiring a clean record or in years of higher insurance costs as a result of the OWI conviction. While prosecutors have to tell you about some very limited non-criminal consequences (like in certain cases where a conviction could lead to deportation), you're usually on your own to figure out all the implications of admitting guilt and taking a plea.
Another issue for defendants is they may not be informed of potentially exculpatory evidence during the plea negotiation process. The Brady Rule, named after a Supreme Court case establishing the requirement, mandates prosecutors turn over exculpatory evidence during a discovery phase before a criminal case goes to trial. However, circuits have split on whether prosecutors have to give defendants access to exculpatory evidence during plea negotiations. Washington Post reported courts in West Virginia recently said prosecutors had a duty to give defendants exculpatory evidence during plea negotiations, and the Second, Eighth, and Ninth Circuit Courts have also held disclosure is mandatory.
Until a national rule is established, however, not all defendants can count on prosecutors giving them information during plea negotiations which could be used to help avoid conviction. A petition on a case called Charles Ray Hooper v. United States has asked the Supreme Court to address this issue nationally, but until a decision is reached, defendants nationwide can't be sure they necessarily have all evidence during a plea bargaining phase.