Never underestimate the power of contrition in the courtroom. Although the defendant in a recent DUI case was not able to elude harsh sentencing by expressing remorse to the judge, he was notably commended for it, and it may have helped him avoid harsher sentencing. In an interesting approach, Rondo John Begay, 38, was forthright and transparent with the judge about his struggles with alcoholism, affirmatively identifying as an alcoholic. His full and open admissions about alcoholism were viewed favorably in the eyes of the judge. “I'm an alcoholic, most definitely,” Begay said Thursday at a sentencing hearing. “... I did get help (previously) through sobriety court in Ottawa County and put together some sober time. I would really like to get back to that sobriety." His case initially made local headlines because he offered officers food instead of his driver's license, when prompted.
Begay also cited his familial track record with alcoholism, informing the judge he was raised on an Indian reservation and has a history of alcoholism on both sides of his family. The judge recognized he may have a genetic disposition toward it. He also thanked his family for their support throughout his DUI ordeal. He continued, “I'd really like to say thank you to the officer that arrested me and I'd like to say thank you to the ambulance and the person who called the cops. They may very well have saved my life.”
The judge reportedly "appreciated" Begay's sobering sense of remorse for the DUI, however still believed punishment was necessary in response to the offense. Begay was ultimately sentenced to 7 months in prison and 3 years probation. “You violate (probation) any of these three years, you're probably going to Jackson (prison),” the judge told Begay. “You need to have that in front of your brain.” Prosecutors sought a far more punitive 28 month jail term, citing witness accounts that multiple people tried to intervene to stop Begay from getting behind the wheel, to no avail. According to the assistant prosecutor, Begay drove 55 miles from Detroit to Livingston County with a blood alcohol content of .26%. "I can think of no other public safety risk where you have people physically attempting to take your keys, you're refusing, standing in front of your vehicle, disregarding that, leaving the parking lot (and) entering the freeway the wrong way,” the assistant prosecutor said. “But for the grace of god, for some reason he turned around, or it could have been a head on collision and fatality of himself or someone else.”
Arguing in defense of his client, Begay's attorney pointed to his 10-year sobriety streak, saying he was "remarkably different" from the man he used to be. “(Begay) was very cordial, there was no problems or fights. He mistakenly offered the police officer food instead of his license so he clearly was disoriented but not combative. He did learn that lesson,” Macdonald said. “He's not without hope. … He does have redeeming qualities.”
If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence in Gwinnett County, you will need the services of a skilled and aggressive DUI attorney in order to review your case and fight your charges. Do not let a DUI conviction affect your future, contact Gwinnett County DUI attorney Richard Lawson for a free consultation.