Why am I Required to Sign a Tahl Waiver for my Los Angeles DUI Case?

  • September 1, 2017

    In Re Tahl was heard by the California Supreme Court in 1969, and it has been the law in California since it was decided. The case now controls thousands of plea agreements that are accepted by judges across California every week, including those that judges accept in DUI cases.

    Waiver of a bench or jury trial
    The Tahl court’s ruling was that a defendant must be advised of his or her constitutional rights in connection with a bench or jury trial along with the consequences of waiving those rights when presenting a plea negotiation to a trial court judge. Most California courts require a signed and written waiver of those rights on a form supplied by the court. Without that signed written waiver, a negotiated plea of guilty to an offense that’s accepted by a judge might not be valid.

    Executing the waiver
    Some California courts have tailored Tahl forms to DUI cases. In those forms, the defendant is advised of his or her right to a speedy and public trial. The defendant is advised that he or she is presumed innocent with the prosecution having the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. One form might be used for giving up the right to a jury trial when 12 people determine guilt or innocence. Another form might be used for giving up the right to a bench trial when a judge alone would determine guilt or innocence. For purposes of convenience, some counties might combine both forms into one. Statements about the possible administrative consequences on the defendant’s driver’s license might also follow. A space for the defendant to affix his or her initials to indicate that the right to a trial is given up freely and without coercion is provided. A line at the bottom of the form would then need to be signed.

    Other specific DUI disclosures
    Tahl DUI forms might also contain what’s known as a Watson disclosure advising the defendant that if he or she drives while under the influence again and kills another person as a result, a murder charge could be brought. Some counties might include that Watson admonition within the four corners of a Tahl document. Other counties might require that a separate document be signed by the defendant.

    Defendants are encouraged to ask questions about the forms
    A careful attorney will review both Tahl and Watson forms with the defendant. Any questions that the defendant might have should be thoroughly answered by the attorney. After all required forms are initialed and signed, they’re presented to the court’s clerk for review by the presiding judge when the case is called to be heard for entry of the plea agreement.

    Confirming the Tahl waiver of rights
    Upon considering the plea agreement, a judge might simply ask the defendant if he or she understood, initialed and signed the Tahl form. Other judges might also:

    • Orally advise of the right to a trial
    • Orally advise of the right to a bench or jury trial
    • Confirm waiver of a trial of any kind
    • Confirm waiver of direct or cross examination of witnesses
    • Confirm that the defendant wants to persist in a plea of guilty
    • Inquire into whether the defendant was forced or coerced into the plea negotiation
    • Confirm that the plea of guilty was free and voluntary

    Tahl waivers are extremely important documents in the context of due process of law. They should be thoroughly reviewed and completely understood by defendants. The presiding judge will want to be absolutely sure of the fact that defendants are fully aware of their options while also knowing of the possible consequences of waiving them.

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