Judges and prosecutors have distinct roles in the criminal justice system, and generally, they refrain from exercising powers outside of the scope of their authority. If they do overstep their bounds, however, it may lead to unexpected outcomes. For example, a prosecutor in North Dakota recently sued a judge, arguing that the judge violated the separation of powers by refusing to approve a plea deal that would have ignored one of the defendant’s prior DUI convictions. The lawsuit, which alleges that defendants convicted of fourth DUIs are subject to less stringent penalties than those convicted of third DUIs, seeks to remedy a perceived injustice. If you are charged with a third or subsequent DUI offense, it is smart to meet with a knowledgeable Illinois DUI defense attorney to assess your rights.
The North Dakota Case
It is reported that the North Dakota legislature recently increased the penalties for repeat DUI offenders. Specifically, a person convicted of a third DUI, which is a class A misdemeanor, faces a 120-day jail sentence, while a person convicted of a fourth DUI crime, which is a Class C felony, may be imprisoned for one year and one day. The prosecutor alleges that, essentially, sentences for fourth DUIs are paper penalties, in that parties convicted of such offenses spend significantly less time in prison than those convicted of lesser crimes.
Allegedly, the prosecutor attempted to subvert the sentencing deficiencies by entering into a plea agreement with a defendant that would have reduced the number of the defendant’s prior DUI convictions, which would have resulted in a lesser sentence on paper but arguably more time in prison. When the judge refused to adopt the plea agreement, the prosecution filed suit, arguing the judge violated the separation of powers. Continue reading →