Two situations have come to mind recently where small clerical mistakes can cause big problems with your DUI, marijuana, or other criminal case. The first is when the prosecutor has mistaken or erroneous information he’s using against you in sentencing (either as part of a plea deal or after a conviction). The other is when the sentence imposed by the judge (including those done by agreement or plea deal) is taken down incorrectly, and the probation officer, jail official, or other officer uses this mistaken sentence in working your case. The judicial system lives and dies by its paperwork.
With regard to the first situation, we handled a case recently where an individual contacted us after attempting to enter a guilty plea to a DUI. When he approached the prosecutor about the terms of the plea deal, he seemed surprised that they were so harsh. That’s why he contacted us. As it turns out, there was an error in his criminal history. His history showed a prior DUI from 16 years ago, which he never got. This wasn’t a situation where he was previously charged with DUI, but won at trial, or got the charges reduced. He had legitimately NEVER been arrested or charged with DUI at all, yet there it was, on his history, showing a conviction. Because of this the prosecutor was seeking a higher fine, significantly higher jail time, a lengthy and cumbersome treatment program, and other harsh terms of probation, significantly worse than what would normally be the case for this offense.
The prosecutor in these situations (probably wisely) is seldom willing to simply believe a defendant who asserts that his criminal history contains an error. Fortunately, in our situation, we were able to contact the court where the old DUI supposedly happened, and get the error corrected very quickly. The prosecutor graciously re-ran the defendant’s history and everything worked out as originally intended.
With regard to the second situation, imagine that the judge has sentenced you to probation on your case, but has allowed that your probation can end as soon as you take a class and pay a fine. This is a pretty common scenario. If the sentence writer does not make the notation that the probation may “terminate early,” then you may find yourself serving 12 months of full-reporting probation, including paying the additional monthly supervision fees, likely having additional costly drug screens, and further subjecting you to having your probation revoked and having to serve jail time if you have any additional infractions during that time. Often, though, in these circumstances, it’s possible for the probation officer or your attorney to approach the judge to clarify his original intent, and to issue an order clarifying or modifying the sentence. Be careful, though. there are timelines and “terms of court” which may limit your ability to have a sentence modified.
The point here is that mistakes happen. Right or wrong, anytime large numbers of cases and files are processed through different agencies and departments, a keystroke or two lands out of place. That doesn’t mean that any individual is out there trying to set you up or screw you over, but the consequences of their unintentional mistake fall entirely on you, unless the problem is corrected. If something seems wrong with your case, don’t be intimidated into simply accepting the “official” version of things. It can have drastic consequences for your case, and can often be resolved with a little legwork.
If you have questions regarding a DUI, Marijuana, or other criminal case in Georgia, particularly in Hall, Forsyth, Jackson, Gwinnett, or Dawson Counties, please feel free to contact us. You can reach us at 770-538-5160, or simply fill in the contact form on this website.