FUNKE AKINDELE: THE CONSEQUENCES OF PLEADING GUILTY IN A CRIMINAL CASE

Mrs. Akindeke and her husband were arrested for violating the social distancing regulation. Their lawyer, I believe, advised them to plead guilty. They did and they were convicted and sentenced to 14 days of community service – whatever that meant.

Their conviction thus made them interestingly one of the very few known Coronavirus-related convictions in the world. Despite Nigeria being minimally affected by the pandemic, Nigeria led the world in criminally convicting a celebrity couple and threatening to convict others out of the same event. Nigeria is a wonderful country when it comes to the negative use of law.

Anyway, they pled guilty to what might not have been a properly activated regulation, and hence unconstitutional. A normal thing would have been to plead not guilty. When it is not clear what law you have violated or what act exactly constituted the violation, the best thing is to plead not guilty and challenge the state to establish your guilt to the requisite standards of proof, which it may not succeed in doing.

But when you plead guilty, you forego almost all your due process rights. The following are the rights you waive when you plead guilty to an offense:

1) You give up your right to demand that the state prove its case against you beyond reasonable doubt. Except in capital offences, there is no need for proof if you plead guilty.

2) You waive your right to challenge any evidence tendered against you by the state.

3) You waive your right to adduce evidence or call witnesses on your behalf,

4) You waive your right to challenge the regularity of the law you are alleged to have violated.

5) You waive your right to invoke any of the defenses otherwise available to you, including the defense of mistake.

6) You waive the right to argue that the law in question was too vague or overbroad.

7) You lose the right to appeal against your conviction.

Before you plead guilty to an offense, you need to be properly advised by a sound lawyer. Otherwise, you are placing yourself at the mercy of the judge and in a situation like this, politicians can use you to play football. Look at Funke. While politicians are using the pandemic as opportunity to steal millions, all that she and her husband got out of it was a criminal conviction.

Well, they just hired Femi Falana. I believe he will challenge the constitutionality of the regulation under which they were convicted. Now you can understand why I raised the issue of the constitutionality of the emergency measures under which the regulation was made.

Posted on Due Process Advocate Facebook page by DPA Rambo

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