I Just Want to Get this Over With

This is perhaps the most common reason I am given when a person tells me that they want to plead guilty. The irony of course is that this is the one way to ensure that it will not be over with. People become so intimidated and so frustrated they get worn down and just want to throw in the towel. This ignores the fact that the guilty plea results in consequences which may include a jail sentence, probation, and a criminal record. A criminal record which may follow you for the rest of your life.

I recall one case where a gentleman was charged with Driving While Prohibited, an admittedly minor offence but one which carries a one year driving ban as part of the minimum sentence. We had set the matter down for trial but he was intending to plead guilty. I took his instructions and attended the trial date with the full intention of confirming that the witnesses were there and then pleading him guilty.

The hitch came when I arrived and he told me that the investigator had approached him to confirm his identity. This is one of the elements of the offence which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. When confronted, the investigator admitted that he had reviewed a booking sheet photo of the driver in preparation for Court. This was a real problem for the Crown as this investigator had not taken the photo and therefore had no personal knowledge of who was depicted in the photograph. This suddenly opened up a potential defence. The plan to plead guilty was promptly shelved and the trial proceeded. At the end of the trial, my client was walking out of Court still stunned when he asked me “Did you just do what I think you did?” He had been found not guilty.

While perhaps not a representative case, it provides a powerful lesson in why you might not want to plead guilty, especially where there is a mandatory minimum penalty.

Take the time to review all of the evidence and get proper legal advice. In many cases there are defences available and legal arguments to be made. At the very least get advice to ensure that if you are going to plead guilty, you are getting the best deal possible.