This document reviews the questions that you will be asked during the plea process. Most of the time, the Judge asks the attorney to ask these questions of his client. Sometimes, the Judge actually asks the questions. If the Judge is doing the asking, make sure that you remember to address the Judge only as "Your Honor." Most of these questions are simply answered by saying, "Yes, Your Honor, I understand."
Please note that you should appear for court dressed formally. This means that you wear your good clothes. For men, a suit and tie, or sports jacket and tie, is advisable. For women, a dress or suit is advisable. Wear little or no makeup and do NOT wear a lot of jewelry. NEVER wear shorts, jogging suits, dungarees, t-shirts, tank tops, boots, revealing blouses or very tight sweaters to court.
Initial Questions from the Court
Q: What is your name?
Q: I am your attorney, correct?
Q: We are going to dispose of this case by your guilty plea. We have discussed disposing it by guilty before coming to court today, correct?
Q: Before coming to court today, you did not have any substance, such as drugs or alcohol, which would affect your ability to understand what is happening here today concerning your case, correct?
The Charge to which you are Pleading Guilty
Q: You understand that you are pleading guilty to the charge of (either) Driving under the
Influence, or Driving while Impaired, correct?
Q: I have explained to you what (Driving under the Influence or Driving While Impaired) is and what the State would have to prove in order to get a conviction against you, correct?
The Potential Penalties
Q: I have explained that the charge of Driving under the Influence carries a maximum sentence of 1 year and a $1000.00 fine, correct?
Q: I have explained that the charge of Driving while Impaired carries a maximum sentence of 60 days and a $500.00 fine, correct?
Q: Do you understand that if you were on probation when this offense was committed, your plea of guilty here today admits a violation of probation AND that your probation in that other case may be revoked?
Q: Do you understand that if you were not a US citizen, your plea of guilty here today could cause you immigration consequences?
The Judge's Role
Q: Do you understand that this Judge has not promised you what the sentence will be?
Q: Do you understand that this Judge will not be harder on you if you go to trial AND will not be easier on you if you plead guilty?
The Trial Rights that you Give Up by Pleading Guilty Part I
Q: Do you understand that you have an absolute right to go to trial on this case; you do not have to plead guilty?
Q: Do you understand that if you did no t plead guilty you could get a trial on this case today?
Q: Do you understand that you could even request a jury trial in this case, and if you did request a jury trial the State would have to prove the case to 12 jurors?
Q: Do you understand that the State would have the burden of proving you guilty and that you would not have to prove yourself innocent?
Q: Do you understand that at trial the State would have the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?
Q: Do you understand that throughout the trial you would be presumed innocent?
Q: Do you understand that you could not be compelled to testify at trial, this means that you could remain silent throughout the trial AND your silence could not be used against you in any way?
The Trial Rights that you Give Up by Pleading Guilty Part II
Q: Do you understand that in order to prove its case, the State would have to call witnesses AND we would have the right to cross examine each of those witnesses?
Q: Do you understand that cross examination means asking the witness questions, and that some of the answers might actually help your case?
Q: Do you understand that in order to prove its case the State would introduce into evidence your score on the breath test that you took at the police station, but they would first have to show that the test was taken without violating any of your rights?
Q: Do you understand that in order to introduce the breath test the State would have to show that certain requirements were met, such as that the machine was certified, the person who gave the test was certified to give the test, and the test was given within two hours of your arrest?
The Trial Rights that you Give Up by Pleading Guilty Part III
Q: Do you understand that the State might also want to introduce any statement which you made
that indicates that you had been drinking or driving, but they would first have to show that each such statement was taken without violating any of your rights?
Q: Do you understand that the State might want to introduce into evidence physical objects, such as alcohol containers, but they would first have to show that each physical object was taken without violating any of your rights?
Q: No promises have been made to you to persuade you to plead guilty, correct? (If a promise has been made, it would be stated in court at this time).
Q: You are pleading guilty voluntarily and by exercising your own free will, correct?
Q: You are pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty and for no other reason, correct?
At this time, your attorney would tell the Judge that your plea is knowingly, voluntarily and
The State's Offer of Evidence
You cannot be convicted solely on your admission of guilt. Therefore, the State is
required to introduce some evidence to show that you committed the offense. The State
does this by reading from the arrest report. If the officer is present, he might be asked to
read from the report. Your attorney then has the opportunity to make an additions or corrections which would make the information in the report more accurate.
The Judge gives us all the Opportunity to Speak
The Judge is required to give your lawyer, the prosecutor and you an opportunity to speak.You should not speak for more than 20-30 seconds UNLESS the Judge starts asking you questions. Judges generally don't ask additional questions at this point. However, if the Judge does ask you a question, it could be because he wants to make a point to the other people who are present in the courtroom. In other words, he might use your case to educate people who will be standing up on their own cases later in the day.
Your statement should be simple and direct.Your statement should show that you are sorry and embarrassed by your actions, that you have tried to make things right by taking an alcohol education program that you have learned it is never safe to drink and drive, and that you are grateful that no one was hurt or injured by your actions. In spite of the urge to keep talking, you should say no more UNLESS the Judge asks you additional questions.
Questions You Must Be Prepared to Answer Honestly
Please note that the Judge might ask you when the last time you had a drink was. If true, the best answer would be that you have not had a drink since the arrest because you are re-evaluating your use of alcohol.
The Judge might also ask you if you have ever been stopped for a drinking driving
offense before. He also might have you sworn as a witness before you are given the
opportunity to answer.
Your lawyer should have told you, when you first spoke, that you could be facing these questions and that, while you cannot change the past, you could make sure your future actions allowed you to give the best answers. For example, you should not be drinking any alcohol while you are waiting for your court date.
The Judge might simply say that he is following your lawyer's recommendation and giving you probation. Probation means that you will be released with certain conditions such as not committing additional offenses which carry jail sentences, paying your fine, and reporting as required to your probation officer.
Sometimes the Judge may use other language to place you on probation, but the result is the same. For example, he might say that he is giving you a suspended sentence, or that he is sentencing you to 30 days in jail but that he is suspending the sentence and placing you on probation. Therefore, it is important for you to listen carefully to what he says. If you are at all confused, your lawyer can tell you what the sentence is.
There are special situations where the court will place you on unsupervised probation, eliminate the travel restriction which prohibits you from leaving Maryland, or granting you Probation Before Judgment (to be discussed in another Guide).
Waiting for Your Papers
The Sentence must be written into the case file. To do this, the clerk keyboards the information into the computer and waits for documents to be printed out for your signature. By this time, the Judge is already onto the next case and you are waiting for your papers. You will be told where to wait according to the custom of the particular Judge.
Once you receive your papers, you will leave the courtroom. Before you leave the court house, you must pay your fine and sign up with the probation office. Make sure that you keep your receipt for the fine (it is your proof that you have paid). The probation interview is conducted by an intake probation officer who will probably NOT be your probation officer. The intake probation officer will review the probation order with you, and tell you how you will be notified about your actual first meeting with your probation officer.
After you take care of your fine and probation intake meeting, you can leave the court house.
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