In my arraignment today, I think I experienced first hand (UPL) unauthorized Practice of Law. This is a term many of us paralegals learn in college, to prevent us from trying to play lawyer. It is considered UPL to give legal advice, only a lawyer can do this. I was told I was facing 10 years behind bars on my DUI charge, because of my prior DUI back in the late 80’s. With no mention of the clemency I received in 1998 by then Governor Lawton Chiles. I was told that I should plead bargain because though the legal limit is 0.08, between 0.04 and 0.08 is presumably intoxicated and that it was in the statue, but it was not shown to me.
I felt pressured to plea bargain, however my attorney advice was to show up in court and a plea of not guilty was already made for me. I felt like I was a victim of the good cop bad cop syndrome. Because I was told what to do by the office of the Public Defender, but at the same time a paralegal advised me on the law from the same office, in a deniable manner. She told me what I can do and should do based on information that was guess work. My lawyer was not present in court today.
The paralegal who is supposed to be on my side made the offer that you would have expected from the State Attorney’s Office. I find this troubling, because I am a paralegal by education and I felt nervous by this tactic, so can you imagine the pressure felt by the other 7 or 8 people she approached before she approached me. We were told not to talk to the state attorney, but the Public Defender Paralegal spoke to us in their behalf, negotiating plead bargains.
Yes I might go to jail for writing this article, but like Rev. Jesse Jackson said silence is consent, and he is so right! If I do not speak up now, about something whereby to speak up puts my butt on the line, in such a small way, what good will I be to the movement when my life may be on the line.
I know I was in misdemeanor court and can get no more than one year of jail time, I graduated on the top of my class. I am not stupid. But they might come after me with something different for bucking the system. But it was so unprofessional and unethical that I and many people less educated people than I had to face the judge and the state attorney without a lawyer present. How can a judge accept a guilty plea by a person who has no lawyer present to advise him/her on the right they have to be presumed innocent until proven guilty?
I pleaded non guilty and have a pre trial conference on 20 September 2010. What is next? Oprah Winfrey, AL Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or someone who attracts media attention has to come here. What is going on here is only written about in fictional movies, it is so unreal.