DUI Trial Jury Selection

When a settlement cannot be reached between the District Attorney and the defense attorney, the individual’s case will proceed to trial. The first step in a criminal DUI jury trial is the jury selection process. For a criminal trial in California, twelve jurors and one or two alternative jurors must be chosen to render the decision in the case. Both the District Attorney and DUI defense attorney will carefully evaluate each potential juror to ensure that a panel of fair and unbiased jurors is chosen.

During the jury selection process, a number of prospective jurors are called into the jury box from a larger panel of potential jurors. The judge asks each juror to answer several questions and complete a questionnaire indicating whether the potential juror believes that they can make a fair and impartial decision in the case.

Once the judge is finished questioning the panel, both the District Attorney and the defense attorney have a chance to speak with the potential jurors. After both attorneys have finished questioning the potential jurors, the judge will provide the attorneys with an opportunity to make preemptory challenges. The District Attorney will make their first challenge, indicating which potential juror the attorney wishes to excuse. The defense then has the opportunity to make a preemptory challenge. Each attorney is allowed only ten preemptory challenges. This process goes back and forth until both sides run out of preemptory challenges or when both the prosecutor and the defense attorney agree on the twelve individuals in the jury box.

Opening Statements

After the members of the jury have been agreed upon, both the prosecutor and defense attorney proceed with opening statements. These statements provide the jury members with an outline of the case and what each attorney intends to prove during the course of the trial proceedings. The prosecutor presents his or her opening statement first because the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. The defense attorney has the option of presenting his or her opening statement immediately after the prosecution’s statement, or waiting until the prosecutor has concluded their case.

An opening statement made by an experienced DUI defense lawyer can help to persuade jurors to keep an open mind about the evidence that will be presented. Most importantly, during an opening statement, a defense lawyer is able to remind jury members that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. This means that the defense may not need to call any witnesses or introduce any evidence if the prosecution fails to prove every element of the DUI case beyond a reasonable doubt. In this type of situation, a jury must render a “not guilty” verdict.

Trial Testimony

Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike rely on witness testimony to help establish pertinent facts in the DUI case. In the prosecution’s case, the testimony of the arresting officer typically lays the foundation of the case for the jury. The officer often begins by testifying about the motorist’s driving patterns, which provides a basis for whether or not there was probable cause for the arrest. Next, the officer will recall the circumstances surrounding the traffic stop and any physical symptoms of intoxication which led the officer to believe the individual was driving under the influence. The results of any field sobriety tests or chemical tests will also be discussed by the officer. Finally, the arresting officer will discuss the basis for the arrest and any subsequent statements that may have been made by the defendant.

Following the prosecution’s questioning, the defense attorney is provided with an opportunity to cross-examine the arresting officer on any testimony the officer provided previously. For a DUI defense attorney, cross-examination of the arresting officer is one of the most critical parts of the entire DUI trial. During this cross examination period, a skilled DUI defense attorney can highlight positive information about the defendant while attempting to discredit the arresting officer and the prosecution’s case.

In addition to testimony provided by the arresting officer, both the prosecution and the defense may rely on the testimony of an expert. In the prosecution’s case, for example, this expert may be a chemist from the crime lab that analyzed the individual’s blood. Once the prosecution has completed their questioning of the expert, the defense attorney will attempt to discredit the testimony provided and poke holes in the prosecution’s case. A skilled cross-examination can help to diminish the impact of the expert’s testimony or even negate its significance all together.

Independent expert witnesses are critically important to a DUI defense attorney’s case. The primary purpose of an independent expert is to provide alternative explanations for the prosecution’s evidence. Expert witnesses can testify to a number of problems which may have arisen during the investigation portion of the prosecution’s case and through their testimony, an independent expert witness can help the jury to reinterpret the evidence provided.

It is completely up to the defense attorney whether the defendant in the case is called to testify before the jury. Depending on the case, it may be a better choice to not have the defendant testify, while under other circumstances, a defendant’s testimony can help to explain important details of the case. An experienced DUI defense attorney will determine whether it is a good idea to have a defendant testify or if the defendant’s case would be better served if they do not take the stand.

Closing Arguments

A closing argument is the attorney’s last chance to convince the jury to find in favor of their client. Because the prosecutor has the burden of proof in the DUI case, the District Attorney has the opportunity to argue their closing argument before the defense attorney, and then has a chance to rebut the DUI defense attorney’s argument after the defense attorney presents his or her closing argument.

For a DUI defense attorney, closing arguments are a chance to point out holes in the prosecution’s theory and show jurors that the prosecution has failed to prove each element of the DUI case beyond a reasonable doubt. A DUI defense attorney will also remind the jury that in cases involving circumstantial evidence where there are two reasonable outcomes, the jury must accept the theory which points to the defendant’s innocence.

Jury Deliberations and Verdict

Prior to being released for deliberations, the jury is provided with a set of instructions which have been previously agreed upon by the judge and attorneys. These instructions make it clear to the jury that in a criminal case supported by circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the jury to return a “guilty” verdict.

During jury deliberations, a panel of jurors will select a foreperson who oversees the deliberation process. The jurors will weigh each piece of evidence and decide how much weight the different pieces of evidence should be afforded in the case.

Once deliberations have taken place, the jury will take a vote. If everyone agrees, the jury has reached its verdict, the bailiff is summoned, and the jury returns to the courtroom to present the verdict to the court. If all of the jurors agree on the defendant’s culpability, a “guilty” verdict is presented to the court. If all of the jurors agree on the defendant’s innocence, a “not guilty” verdict will be returned. If the jurors do not all agree, further deliberations must take place until the jury is able to agree. If the jurors are unable to agree on a verdict, the jury will return to the courtroom and announce a “hung jury”. In many California DUI cases, the court will decide to dismiss the case following a hung jury.

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