A good criminal defense strategy is often more nuanced than just going for a verdict of "not guilty." Depending on the circumstances, a plea deal can sometimes be the most effective way to mitigate the consequences of criminal charges and to minimize the impact on a defendant's personal/family life.
As a recent example of this, a Wisconsin man who pleaded guilty to an OWI hit-and-run involving a police officer was recently granted a modified sentence that will allow him to better care for his special-needs child and tend to his family's businesses.
Last September, police said the Mequon man was driving drunk and sped by a Milwaukee police bicycle patrol officer, striking the officer with the van's side mirror and causing injury. He was pulled over and arrested a short time later and was charged with hit-and-run causing injury as well as OWI causing injury.
In January, he pleaded no contest to the hit-and-run charge and guilty to the OWI charge. He was originally sentenced to 18 months in state prison. However, being gone from his family for this long would negatively impact the care for his daughter who has special needs. It would also be detrimental to two family businesses.
Therefore, prosecutors agreed to modify the sentence. Rather than 18 months in state prison, the defendant has been sentenced to:
- 19 months in jail with work-release privileges
- A two-year revocation of his driver's license
- A period of 18-months where he must drive with an ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle
These conditions appear to be reasonable, in that they allow the man to serve his time while still being available to take care of his family.
In cases like this one, a plea deal might be the best criminal defense strategy available, especially if the defendant risks losing too much by fighting the charges. While we don't know the inner workings of this case, the defendant's decision to plead guilty/no-contest to the charges may have helped him convince prosecutors to agree to a modified sentence.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Drunken driver who hit bicycle cop sentenced to 19 months in jail," Bruce Vielmetti, Mar. 9, 2012