Understanding The DUI Trial Process


People generally have a lot of misunderstandings about what happens during a trial because most people would have never been through that process.

I Send A Letter To My Clients To Familiarize Them With The Process

Whenever I set a case for trial, I send my client a letter explaining the actual trial process and what will happen on the trial day.

I also include tips and rules of conduct for them as well as tips should they potentially have to testify.  Most people are very unfamiliar with what would actually happen during the process.

The tips would include things from the dress code for court, to the very common question of whether the trial will be done by lunch (the answer to that is no).  We would not be done with the jury trial quite that quickly.

Most People Are Generally Unfamiliar With The Trial Process

In my experience, the trial process is generally unfamiliar to most people which is why I like giving them as much information ahead of time so they can become a little more familiar and have confidence before they have to go through it.

Bench Trials

First of all the person would have the constitutional right to a jury trial for a felony, whereas it would not be a constitutional right on misdemeanors anymore; it would be a statutory right.

Under Arizona law, both parties would have to waive the right to have a jury trial assuming that the defendant had asked for it.  Once the defendant asks for one, if they then decided they wanted to waive it, then it could only be done if the State was willing to waive it as well.

I had a pretty good run around 10 or 15 years ago, where I would initially request a jury trial, the trial would be set to jury trial and then for whatever reason, I would ask to have it tried non-jury. So instead of waiving our right to a jury, I would say that I was not waiving anything and was just withdrawing a prior request to have a jury trial. We then could go back to the stage it was at before, which was that no one had requested one.
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This strategy worked until the Court of Appeal said we could not do that anymore and the court of appeals said once a jury trial is requested thereafter both parties must agree to waive it. In terms of cases that would go to non-jury versus a jury from the defendant’s standpoint, meaning my client’s standpoint, I frankly win most cases that are non-jury.

It would be easy to infer that it would be a good idea to try all cases non-jury, whereas that would not be the case. We could never know what the jury would decide because we would not know the jurors; meaning the six people who would decide the case because they would be chosen somewhat at random.

With a bench trial, we would know the person deciding the case; it would be the judge deciding the case.  Since I would know ahead of time what the judge was like I have a better idea what I think the judge might decide.  If I felt there was something about the trial that the judge could latch onto which might come back with a verdict of not guilty, then I would try to get the State to agree to try it non-jury.  However, this is not as common as it used to be.

I rarely talk to clients about waiving a jury trial anymore because getting the judges to come back with a verdict of not guilty is very difficult. It is most often better and safer to do it with a jury.

Police Officers Would Have To Show Up For The Trial

Twenty years ago it would have been a far more real possibility for the police officer to not show up, whereas I cannot think of any cases in the last four or five years where that happened. The police officer now may end up facing disciplinary matters within the police department for failing to appear for trial and an officer’s failing to appear may lead to a fight between the police department and the prosecutor’s office and conceivably even the court about the police department not cooperating with prosecutor’s office and court. The case would in all likelihood be dismissed without prejudice as long as the jeopardy had not been attached at that stage; meaning the prosecutors could just re-file and start the process all over again.

If jeopardy was attached but the officers did not appear when they were required, meaning the jury had been selected and sworn, then the case would be dismissed with prejudice and that would be the end of the case.

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