The Law Offices of John Phebus

NFL player pleads no contest to drunk driving, sentence reduced

Some people believe that the wealthy and famous in society are subject to a different, more lenient standard of justice than other Americans. A recent case involving NFL player Aldon Smith is an example. 

Smith was recently sentenced for drunk driving as well as allegedly unlawful possession of firearms that he purchased in Arizona. While his sentence may seem light to some, it is more likely the result of sage advice from a well-informed defense attorney

Some of the charges against Smith were originally brought as felony accusations which could have resulted in a lengthy jail sentence, but during sentencing the presiding judge reduced them to misdemeanors.

Ultimately the sentences for all of the charges will include 12 days of jail time, as well as other forms of punishment such as probation, community service, a fine and a temporary prohibition against possessing firearms or ammunition.

By substantially reducing the potential severity of the sentences, the temptation arises to believe that the judge may have been “star-struck” by a sports celebrity. But other, more universal applications of legal defense strategy may have been more likely an explanation.

For example, when he was in court to enter his pleas concerning the criminal accusations made against him, Smith did not engage in a plea bargain deal but pleaded no contest to the charges.

An assistant prosecuting attorney noted that this decision worked to Smith’s benefit.  By showing that he accepted responsibility for his actions, Smith may have created a more favorable impression upon the judge.

While this strategy appears to have inured to the benefit of Smith, individual circumstances will vary.  Not all drunk driving defendants should proceed in the same manner during plea deal negotiations. Only an experienced attorney who defends DUI cases will have the ability to provide advice on the best course of action.

If you are facing criminal charges, working closely with your defense attorney may help achieve the best possible outcome. He or she may be able to identify ways that help to reduce the charges, mitigate sentencing, or both.

Source: SFGate, "49ers to do no jail time for guns, DUI violations," Kale Williams and Kevin Lynch, July 18, 2014

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