Do Most People Understand What Happens At A DUI Trial?
Most people do understand what happens at a DUI trail, but there are those that are at a complete loss. I do not think I can label that one, or put percentages on that, but there are many cases where people do not understand what it takes to win a jury trial. Many clients will complain about the way they were treated by law enforcement officials. They felt like they should not have been pulled over, that they did nothing wrong or whether the cops did not treat them well physically or verbally, whether the cuffs were too tight, whether they spent too long in jail, and there can be many reasons why people are pissed off. Also people think that they were fine to drive. I have clients who maybe over the legal limit, maybe are two to three times over the state laws and still say “I felt fine to drive. I was not impaired. I want to go to trial on this”.
Through our investigation that helps our clients see that they might not have been correct in their assumptions. There are people who have a high tolerance for alcohol and feel fine to drive, even though most likely they are over the state’s legal limits, it actually happens. It is something where again, we need to sit down with the clients and explain what is going on. There are a number of cases where the DA cannot meet their burden of proof for many different reasons. Someone does not have to be innocent to win a trial. The jury is not saying that they are innocent; the jury is saying they are either guilty or not guilty? Not guilty means that all the elements of the offenses that they are charged with have not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
A Brief Timeline Of The DUI Trial Process In California
The timeline for a DUI jury trial is pretty cut and dry, typically there will be a date set for each trial. That date may get continued once or twice or maybe more, it just depends on whether or not your right to a speedy trial has been asserted or not, or your attorney has wasted time. Once we have the date of trial, we commonly are sent a calendar from each participating courtroom, and the attorneys will conference with the judge and at some point, more than often, before the jury is brought in, which may not be until the next day or the following week depending on the caseload and the information is sent out on time. Motions will be heard either in the judge’s chambers or in the courtroom with the court reporter present and those objections that are made, which is the premise for the trial that are being laid out.
If may go on for hours or days and depending on the complexity of the trial, then eventually a jury panel is brought in. There will be a lot of people in the courtroom and thus begins the process of a jury selection. The legal term for this is called; Voir Dire and the attorneys get to challenge jurors for different reasons. They are challenged for cause. Many times, that is based on a bias where a juror is challenged by the court to not be able to be fair, and due to a bias or whatever type of reason. There are preemptory challenges where each lawyer gets a certain number of challenges to dispose of certain jurors for no reason at all. Once the jury is sworn in, and testimony starts after the DA is going to make the opening statement, telling the jury what the DA, the prosecutor’s office expects to prove and gives them an outline of what they are going to see.
The defense has the right not to give an opening statement, but the defense almost always does, because it is advantageous to let them hear from you, especially in the beginning, the defense attorney will talk about what they believe the evidence will show, witnesses are called, and the prosecution has the burden of proof, so they will call their witnesses first. Generally, they will start with whoever saw the driving, whether it is law enforcement officers or someone else. The police officers who were involved in the case will then have a chance to testify and offer their explanations as to why they stopped the client. Then you may have a forensic toxicologist, a phlebotomist or a nurse will usually testify next. These are the people who may have done the blood testing or who maintains the breath testing machine will testify along with whoever administered the breath test.
Once witnesses have testified or the prosecution, then the defense can call their witnesses. They can recall some of the prosecution witnesses, they can call other witnesses who were nearby, they can call their own forensic toxicologist, blood expert, and if their client is going to testify, that would be the last person typically to testify. All of this will happen after the prosecution has their officer on the stand and that officer has been asked all the pertinent questions. Then the defense gets to do what is called a cross-examination, which is to ask many questions of all the other witnesses. After the defense has called all their witnesses, the prosecutions can rebuttal witnesses. The prosecution may cross again first and then the defense may go one more time as well.
Then the jury is given their instructions to deliberate. They will receive a copy of the instructions from the judge and proceed to the jury room. They are asked to reach a conclusion with a verdict, either guilty or not guilty on all of the charges presented. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, they will let the judge know and if they cannot try one more time to all agree, the judge will declare a hung jury. If they do reach a verdict, they will let the judge know and then the verdict is read in open court and the case is over. If the defendant is found guilty they will be sentenced and that is often done at a later date after sentencing and memorandums are presented to the court by each of the parties.
Either side may appeal the outcome of the case, but that is generally how a jury trial goes. Length of time is anywhere usually from three days to two weeks weeks depending on the issues. The charges and issues vary if there are actions and injuries. There can be more witnesses who turn up or there can be an issue if someone has prior convictions, those are also litigated after the verdict. A lot is going on and for the client; it is pretty intense to sit through all of that. It is not just “Hey, let’s do this. Let’s do a trial”. You need to be mentally, and physically ready to go through this. Someone who is in poor health, who is stressed out about life may not be a candidate to sit through a trial, it can be very stressful.
But, if there is a chance to win the case, and it is a decent chance, go for it, because even though the system is stacked against the defendant, even though these trials are very difficult to win, it can be done and you have a right to have your day in court, you have a right to justice, you have a right to make the other side prove you guilty of each element of the case, that being of a reasonable doubt. It is important to assert your constitutional rights, of which that being, a right to a jury trial.
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