While most DUI charges conclude with a plea bargain, some DUI defendants chose to put their case before a jury. A trial before a jury of his or her peers is the DUI defendant’s right under the U.S. and California Constitutions. Whether the DUI is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, the defendant has this right to a jury trial.
When would a jury trial be a better choice?
There are situations where a defendant might choose to go to trial on a DUI charge. Some examples include: When the prosecution refuses to negotiate on a charge even though the prosecution’s evidence is less than certain, when the charges are serious felony charges (such as DUI enhancements), when the BAC evidence is right on the threshold, or when a commercial driver’s license in on the line.
Although a jury trial is a right, it is not always a better choice. There is a risk that the jury will find a verdict of guilty on charges that may have been reduced under a plea agreementor that the sentence will be more severe than that which could have been negotiated in a plea agreement. But sometimes, it is worth the risk — especially when the evidence is shaky, and the prosecutor is digging in his or her heels.
The right to a speedy trial applies to DUI trials, as it does in all criminal trials. This means the trial must take place within 30 days, if the defendant is incarcerated, or within 45 days after arraignment, if the defendant is not incarcerated. Most DUI defendants have the right to a trial within 45 days as few are incarcerated awaiting trial. But this does not mean the trial must take place with 45 days. The defendant can waive his or her right to a speedy trial. Usually this is the case as the DUI defense attorney needs time to gather discovery and prepare for trial.
Prior to a DUI trial, the prosecution must provide the defense with discovery. This will include the police reports, the BAC test results, and any other evidence the prosecution has collected. Sometimes there is what is called “exculpatory evidence.” This is evidence that may be favorable to the defendant. For example, there might be evidence that the breathalyzer devicewas not functioning properly or was not properly calibrated. The prosecution might not share this evidence; therefore, it important to have a skilled DUI defense attorney who will request the contemporary technical information regarding the device.
Often during a DUI trial, the defense will call an expert or experts to testify. The prosecution will probably also have an expert testify. As you might imagine, the experts are likely to testify to different conclusions, leaving it up to the jury to decide which expert to believe.
As with any criminal trial, all 12 jurors have to agree on the verdict. If not, the jury will be declared “hung” and the prosecutor may or may not decide to refile the charges. If all the jurors find the DUI defendant not guilty, the DUI charges are dismissed. Unfortunately, even though the DUI is dismissed, the DMV Administrative Per Sefinding will not be automatically dismissed. That is the subject for another blog post.
Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg has defended hundreds of DUI cases, some of those in a jury trial. His experience and expertise often produce a positive result for his client that is beyond the client’s expectation. Whether you decide to plea or go to trial, Mr. Weinberg is in your corner and he will vigorously fight for your rights. He is available for a complimentary consultation to discuss your options. You may reach him at 949-474-8008 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.