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Anatomy of a Plea

By Andrew St. Laurent

We had been in court since 9:30 a.m., and at 12:30 p.m. my client was asleep. We were “on for trial” today. I had emphasized to him the importance of being on time, always, but especially on “trial days.” My DWI client was not a resident of the county that was prosecuting him. He had been up since at least 6:00 a.m. to take the bus to the train to the subway to the courthouse. This was the 13th appearance that he had made since his arrest the previous year. It was a long way from being his last.1 

Guilty pleas are the foundation of the criminal justice system. Indeed, there are moments when it seems like the entire apparatus of the criminal justice system from arrest to arraignment to grand jury to pretrial hearings to trials is no more than a spectacle of horrors designed to convince those persons charged with crimes to permanently and irreversibly admit them.

Fewer Trials

In 2018, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”) issued a comprehensive report identifying ma

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