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Detroit Pistons Player Avoiding Jail Time Shows Disparity in DUI Sentencing

Detroit Pistons player Ben Wallace may end up avoiding jail time in a drunken driving case because of an odd twist — he had a gun on him, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The article goes on to state that Wallace may have gone before the same judge who sentenced former NBA player Jalen Rose this summer to jail time for his first DUI, which Massachusetts DUI Attorney Blog commented on at the time.
But because of the unlawfully carrying of a concealed weapon charge, a potential five-year felony in Michigan, it’s likely his case will be taken to a circuit court judge, who are less likely to sentence first-time offenders to jail time. Rose was a first time offender whom the judge used to send a “message” about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

The sentencing for OUI in Massachusetts is based largely on a judge’s discretion. While there are guidelines for punishment, the argument of an experienced Massachusetts OUI attorney, coupled with favorable facts for the defendant, can help a client avoid serious jail time.

This is an odd case because under normal circumstances, a person charged with DUI would go before judge Kim Small, who has a reputation of sentencing first-time offenders to lengthy jail time — a reputation which became more widespread this summer when she sent Rose, a former NBA basketball player, to jail for DUI.

But because Wallace also faces the gun charge, that case will likely be sent to a court that handles felony cases and not low-level misdemeanors. An analysts believe that may actually benefit him.

Provided a defendant is adequately defended, judges who handle felony cases are sometimes less likely to sentence first-offenders to jail or prison time for minor felonies. In most court systems, if the defendant faces both felonies and misdemeanors, the case is taken to the court that handles felonies. Typically, judges who preside over misdemeanor cases aren’t allowed to hear felony cases.

Because Wallace will be sent to a judge who is described as handing out “temperate and measured sentences,” it’s likely he will face probation and fines, whether he goes to trial and is convicted or enters a plea agreement. Of course, that assumes he will be convicted.

According to the news report, Wallace was in a 2007 Cadillac Escalade when he was pulled over for “driving erratically.” Investigators found a magazine of bullets for a .28-caliber semiautomatic pistol that was in a backpack and registered to his wife. Police reported that Wallace’s blood-alcohol level was 0.14 percent, nearly twice the state’s 0.08 legal limit.

In most situations, defendants aren’t allowed to pick their judge. The situation in the metro Detroit area has been heavily reported based on the high-profile cases there.

The Law Offices of Michael DelSignore are conveniently located in Stoughton, Attleboro, New Bedford and Westborough.

More Blog Entries:

West Coast Presentation Illustrates Questionable Value of Massachusetts DUI Checkpoints: September 28, 2011
Drivers facing Stoughton DUI Charges with Bad Driving Record: September 17, 2011
Additional Resources:

Weapons charge may help Ben Wallace avoid jail in DUI case
, by L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Press

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