The Los Angeles DUI Law Blog

What Does Pleading Not Guilty to a DUI Mean?

In mid-October 2013, Lamar Odom has pleaded "not guilty" to a DUI charge. The reality TV celebrity and former Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers forward was charged with one misdemeanor count of a DUI, stemming from an arrest in August, Los Angeles' KCBS-TV reports.

On the day of his arrest, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer pulled Odom over after he appeared to be driving slowly and weaving between lanes, reportedly showing "objective signs or symptoms of intoxication." Odom was also unable to perform the standard field sobriety tests as explained.

Despite all the objective signs of possible guilt for a DUI, why would Odom plead not guilty?

Odom's plea of "not guilty" is actually only one of three other options (the other two are guilty and nolo contendere pleas) that a defendant has in a DUI or any criminal case. Here is a general breakdown of why one might choose to plead "not guilty":

Strategizing a Plea

For starters, every prospective defendant has a legal right under the Fifth Amendment's right against self-incrimination to plead not guilty.

This not guilty plea may not necessarily mean that the defendant believes he is actually innocent, but it can be used as a form of strategy. Defendants (and their attorneys) may often use a not guilty plea if they believe that they can wrangle a better deal by doing so.

Actual Innocence

This is an obvious one. If a defendant is factually innocent of the crime with which he or she is charged, he or she would certainly want to plead "not guilty." The prosecution would then have to prove the defendant's guilt using proof that meets a high standard -- beyond a reasonable doubt.

Testing Prosecution's Burden of Proof

As another form of strategy, a defendant may plead "not guilty" as a way of testing the prosecution's burden of proof. As mentioned, the standard required to actually convict a defendant in a criminal trial is very high. The prosecutor may not be able to meet that lofty bar, in which case, the defendant would do him or herself a great service by pleading "not guilty."

The recently convicted Odom has played in the NBA for 14 years but is now currently a free agent, reports KCBS. Let's hope he uses that freedom to stay clear of the criminal justice system.

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