Does a judge have the legal right or discretion to lead a defendant when making a plea?
Question Details: I decided to take a plea of guilty in a DUI case because of the threat from the prosecutor to more than double the lose of license and fines as well as not drop the additional violations that were issued at the same time as the DUI arrest. When "admitting" to guilt, I found it odd that the judge was trying to get me to admit to drinking excessively and not accepting my answer, "I did have a few beers that evening several hours before the stop". He went on to suggest that I had more, at least 3. I was wondering if it is typical for the judge to push inaccurate admissions when taking the plea?
It's heavy handed and arguably improper how he did it, but the reason he did it is valid. In New Jersey, a guilty plea is not valid unless in giving it, you articulate a factual basis for it: that is, you can't just admit guilt without comment, but rather must admit to facts which support or explain the plea, since in theory, the plea must be accurate and truthful, not merely expedient or pragmatic. A few beers several hours before would not--especially for the typical male or a larger woman--result in a high-enough BAL to support DUI; therefore, the facts you tried to plead to would not actually allow you to plead, since the would not support the plea. The judge was going beyond what he should do, but he was doing it for good reasons: he was prompting you to articulate facts that would support you plea, and hence allow the judge to accept it. (If the facts don't support the plea, the judge must reject it and send you to trial.)