This is a sad story and I’m not sure if I agree with the accused’s decision to plead guilty so quickly. Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested on April 12, 2013 for allegedly driving while intoxicated. In a letter to the court this week, she entered a guilty plea to “whatever level of offense is determined to be justified by the facts.” Although I may understand her desire to put this embarrassing event behind her as quickly as possible, I can’t help but believe her decision is motivated more by politics than by her desire for a just outcome. I would never advise a client to plead guilty without a full and in-depth investigation of the law and facts applicable to the case. Our system is designed to force the government to prove guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt. The issue in a criminal case is not whether a person “is guilty.” The true issue is whether the State can “prove a person is guilty.” Although Ms. Lehmberg probably regrets driving last Friday night after consuming alcohol, I hope she never regrets such a quick decision to forgo her right to a trial, her right to remain silent, and her right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.