A DUI case will typically involve pre-trial motions and a trial. Most DUI cases are settled with plea bargains – where someone admits guilt to a lesser offense – and therefore never go to trial. In the absence of a plea bargain agreement between the prosecution and the defense, the DUI case will go to trial. The common understanding of a trial comes from television depictions. Your guilt or innocence will be decided by a jury of your peers after considering all the evidence for and against you in light of the demand for guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are 7 steps involved in taking your DUI case to trial:
1. Pre-trial motions are made.
2. Jury members are selected.
3. Opening statements are made.
4. Witnesses testify and are cross-examined.
5. Closing arguments are made.
6. The jury is given instructions.
7. The jury deliberates and reaches a verdict.
Pre-Trial Motions: Before the trial begins, your DUI attorney can use these motions to hamper the prosecution. Pre-trial motions include complete dismissal of the case, or the prohibition of certain expert witnesses for the prosecution. Here are some of the arguments/motions your DUI attorney might make in your behalf:
1. You were not properly informed of your Miranda rights.
2. Your breathalyzer test wasn’t done properly.
3. You were illegally searched by the arresting officer. Your DUI attorney will contend that these were inappropriately or unlawfully conducted when s/he presents pre-trial motions. If successful, the police will not be able to use these pieces of evidence or testimony from these witnesses against you.
Jury Selection: A typical jury pool is comprised of people selected from lists of local residents. A local resident is identified by their voting registration, utility billing or DMV records. The court will want a jury as representative of the local population as they can get. For example, an area with a 25% African-American population should aim for a jury pool that is 25% African-American. Because the Constitution only demands a jury pool resemble the local population, and not the actual jury, this percentage is not very important. After a jury pool is grouped and gathered before a judge, the attorneys for the defense and prosecution ask questions to determine their fitness for the trial. This is meant to confirm that one is tried in front of a jury that is unbiased towards either side. A jurist whose spouse died in a DUI accident might be dismissed by your DUI attorney because that jurist would likely have a bias against you.
Opening Statements: A DUI trial can start as soon as jury selection ends. The opening statement is the first time each attorney can discuss your case with the jury.
The testimony of witnesses and the cross examination: In this part of your trial, both the prosecution and your DUI attorney can call on the witnesses and ask about the incident with the judge and jury present. Any witness for the prosecution or the defense is also available for cross examination by the opposing side. Cross examination is a phase in witness testimony when the prosecution can question a defense witness, or your DUI attorney can question a prosecution witness.
The Closing Arguments: At the end of the case, your DUI lawyer and the prosecuting lawyer will summarize their cases. Evidence will be displayed in an attempt to sway the jury one way or the other.
Instructions for the jury: The judge will tell the jury about any laws they need to understand that apply to your case. They will need to know this in order to make an informed decision regarding your case. The judge will likely translate the complicated legalese of the DUI statutes into more normal English for the jury.