How Often Do DUI Cases End Up Going To Trial?
Every DUI case has the potential of going to trial. I am only talking about trials, whether it is a jury or a judge trial. In almost every case, unless there are technical issues, we prefer a jury instead of just appearing in front of a judge. The reason being, the odds are better going in front of twelve of your peers versus going in front of a judge in order to obtain a not guilty verdict. In regards to how many cases go to trial, it depends on what attorney we are referring to.
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Typically about two percent of cases end up going to a jury trial. For some attorneys, it can go either way; it just depends on the cases. There might be times where ten percent or more of these cases will go to trial. But typically, the case that is going to trial is going to be the one where this is the wishes of the client. The client always has the right to go to a jury trial, and a typical trial case would be one where the chances of winning far out way the other.
Do Most DUI Attorneys Avoid Taking A DUI Case To Trial?
Generally, most criminal defense attorneys are good lawyers who fight their DUI cases. There are some out there that never go to a jury trial. All they do is plead their clients guilty, every time. When you are trying to find a good DUI lawyer in the San Francisco Bay area, you want to find someone who is literally willing to go to trial for you, because if you have a reputation that you never go to trial, the DA’s office is going to know that and you are less likely to procure a better offer. There are lawyers out there and it is unfortunate they call themselves DUI lawyers. These folks will tell people that they will do anything to win their case, file motions, go to trial, but they never do.
It gives the rest of us DUI attorneys a bad rap. It is unfortunate that it happens, but it is like this in other businesses. There are good attorneys and not so good ones. You want to make sure that when you are ready to hire an attorney they have the reputation of someone who will fight for your case. Be smart, do your homework, one of the first questions you should ask a lawyer is will they file motions if there are motions to be filed? That may help win the case, and will they go to trial? If they say yes, then try asking them about some of the experiences that they have had in trial compared to your case and what were the outcomes.
What Are The Criteria Considered When Taking A DUI Case To Trial?
Some of the criteria when considering a trial in defending a DUI case is what is the strength of the case the risk and the potential penalties. In many cases when a deal is offered, they will lose a trial. The penalties are not going to be that much different. In that case, you can afford it. If you have the time, go to trial, it is recommended. But there are a number of counties and cases where if you do go to trial, you are looking at a penalty that is much worse than if you do not. You want to make sure in those cases that you have a chance to win and that you can handle the consequences if you are found guilty. In a DUI case, for a first offense without any extra allegations, the maximum penalty is six months in jail, which means the worst that you would do if convicted is three months in jail. In most cases, the judge is not going to offer that light of a sentence.
Most attorneys should be able to look at the possible penalties involved and then balance that with your chances of winning. We then start looking at all the different offenses involved, and we focus on a handful of defenses that we think will get the jury trial to come to a not guilty verdict. Worst case scenario is a hung jury and hopefully the DA will not refile and then case is over. Different types of defenses that we look at are the elements of the offense. For example, drunk driving, you have to be driving, so we want to look at whether or not the officer saw you driving, whether the DA’s office can prove you were driving and was there a witness who saw you drive and called it in. The other issues are where you impaired when you were driving, or were you at or over a 0.08% blood alcohol level when you were driving.
We would look at the field sobriety tests and other aspects of the case, the investigation that the officer did, video and audio reports of the actual driving, conversations, and then there are the chemical test results; which are the breath or blood testing and what procedures were utilized to administer them. Was there any margins in errors with the testing, issues with the machines or can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were out or over a 0.08% BAC level and was the machine acting properly, working properly and were there issues with the blood test, was there some type of contamination and were there mycobacteria that could cause a false positive on a blood test. There are many different defenses, but in most cases, there is only one or a handful that might work.
We also need to talk about the stronger defenses and go over those with the clients so the client understands what is going to come up at trial. We offer every bit of information to our clients so the client can make an informed decision. It is our job as attorneys to help the clients make informed decisions because this is their case, this is their criminal record; this is something that may or will impact their families, career status and licensing status.
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