A Recent Lesson in How Not to Handle Your DUI Case
By: Mary Ann Pekara
At Total DUI, we provide you with a wealth of information concerning what you'll need to know and be prepared for during a DUI trial. The main recommendation we can make is to speak with a DUI lawyer, who can provide specific advice for you and help you prepare a defense that takes best advantage of your current situation.
However, every once in a while, we come across a situation in which a DUI trial did not occur in the best way possible. We'd like to take a moment to pass on a news story that demonstrates what NOT to do during a DUI trial.
Lance Majors from Monticello, New York was arrested for drunk driving on March 24 of this year, when police stopped him after a radar gun clocked him at 107 mph. When he was stopped, police learned that his 11-year-old daughter was in the passenger's seat of his car.
When Majors was pulled over in Liberty, New York, he refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test and a blood test. According to the DUI laws in the state of New York, that may results in a one-year suspension of license at arraignment, as well as a civil penalty of $500 in order to restore the license. A refusal during a 5-year probationary period after a DUI (or DWI, as the state of New York refers to it) results in automatic suspension for 18 months, and permanent suspension for commercial drivers, as well as a $750 civil fee.
Of course, these laws are particular to the state of New York, and you'll have to learn the specific DUI laws in your state to learn if such penalties for breath test refusal are applicable.
So after his breath test and blood rest refusal, Lance Majors' DUI case was not out to the best start. Then, when Majors appeared in court, it got worse.
At trial, it came out that Majors has five prior convictions for DWI (or DUI). Multiple convictions are punishable by much greater sentences and fines according to DUI laws across the country, and typically cause judges to be much harsher in their sentencing decisions.
Further, because of the particular situation in which Majors found himself in, prosecutors were able to charge him with multiple charges related to DUI and reckless driving. He was charged with seven counts in all, including felony drunk driving, reckless endangerment, driving with a revoked license, endangering the welfare of a child (remember the 11-year-old daughter?) and speeding.
However, even after all of these factors that would serve to compound the penalty that Majors faced, if Majors came to court and appeared contrite, there is always the chance that the judge could exercise some leniency in sentencing.
In Majors case, however, one word comes to mind, and it's not "repentant." The better description of Majors would be "arrogant."
Majors represented himself in a three-day trial in August, bringing his wife and daughter to the stand as witnesses.
In court, Majors told Judge Frank LaBuda that he "expected no justice from a man with a reputation for sarcasm in court," according to news reports.
When LaBuda sentenced him to the maximum amount for all of his charges, 2 1/3 to 7 years, Majors shook his head and laughed out loud.
Then, when LaBuda began scolding Majors for his poor attitude toward the court and police, as well as for his endangerment of fellow motorists and his own daughter, Majors interrupted the judge, allegedly saying, "Just speed it up because you are really boring me."
In response, Judge LaBuda added an additional 15 days to the sentence for contempt of court. His reply: "Laugh all you want to, Mr. Majors."
Lance Majors' case is a perfect example of how DUI trials often work. If you have multiple convictions, you can generally expect the penalties mandated by law to be severe, and judges to have little leniency when it comes to sentencing decisions.
And even more importantly, your demeanor and attitude have a lot to do with affecting the judge's discretionary power in the court room. From the first moment, Majors' lack of respect and openly rude comments let the court know he was not sorry for his actions, and caused his argument at trial to become personal with the judge.