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Some news stories read like a small-time crime primer, an illustration of how not to handle legal problems. This case arising out of Orange, California is one of those, a suspected DUI involving a driver on a suspended license who failed to appear in court on a prior reckless driving charge.
Stephanie Marie De Rosas, 32, was arrested on suspicion of DUI last week, reports KTLA5, after she was involved in a three-car crash with one fatality. While DUI is relatively common, De Rosas's checkered past, and most importantly her failure to face facts and resolve the prior matter, means more trouble for her.
Failure to Appear
When you ignore a criminal case, it doesn't go away. In fact, it haunts you at the worst times, like next time you get in trouble. Technically, De Rosas' prior reckless driving charge can't be used against her to prove DUI in the current case. But failure to resolve the matter and willingness to ignore the court leads to more trouble -- that is why De Rosas' license was suspended.
These failures will likely impact the kind of plea deal De Rosas will be offered by a prosecutor and her sentencing if she is found guilty. Sentencing is determined statutorily but prosecutors have some leeway with extent to the plea deals that they can offer and judges have some sentencing discretion. Authorities will be much less inclined to be kind to someone who seems to be trying to shirk responsibility.
Similarly, a defense lawyer will have a harder time arguing that this was a fluke accident and that De Rosas respects the law and can be trusted to complete the terms of a probationary deal for example. Also, now De Rosas has multiple cases to resolve, rather than just the one.
Hindsight is 20/20 and no doubt De Rosas, sitting in custody, has at least a little regret about leaving prior matters unresolved. While sometimes it is difficult to deal with troubles, in the context of criminal law it is never a good idea to leave matters pending and hope someone ends up forgetting. That won't happen. What will happen is that you'll make matters worse next time you're in trouble.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you are currently accused, or you know you have a criminal matter unresolved somewhere, even a small one, talk to a lawyer. Many DUI defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your options.