What Happens During A DUI Trial?

Let us discuss this in the context of misdemeanor trials because that is generally what I handle.

Both Parties Would Have To Be Ready To Proceed

The first step to a DUI trial would be that both parties would have to be ready; which in my case would mean I knew that my client, any witnesses or potential witnesses were available for trial. The prosecutor would have to do the same thing, and would also have to be ready in the sense of knowing where their witnesses were, whether they were present in court or whether they could assure the court that they would be there when required.

Choosing The Jury Using The Voir Dire Process

The next step would be to pick a jury and the Voir dire process to do that would vary according to the judgeIn the context of a misdemeanor, this can sometimes be done in an hour, whereas sometimes it could take all day.

Depending on the court, the usual process would be to bring in a certain number of perspective jurors which could range from anywhere between 15 to 40 people. There would be a six-person jury for a DUI misdemeanor trial in Arizona, and there would usually be one or two jurors picked as alternates.

In order to get a jury, it would be quite common for us to need six people plus one or two alternates. The court would ask a whole series of questions called “Voir dire” to see whether the potential juror had a bias one way or another or whether they had had life experiences that would affect their ability to be fair and impartial in a DUI trial.

Out of the many potential questions that could be asked, I feel that the most important one would be to ask the potential jurors whether any of them had strong feelings about the charge of “Driving Under the Influence” to the extent they felt it would be difficult to be fair and impartial during this case.

Other Questions That Would Be Asked From The Jury

The Voir dire process would generally be over once we got past basic biographical information and then we ask the potential jurors more specific questions regarding whether they had ever been charged with DUI and whether they had ever been involved in an accident where the other driver was charged with Driving Under the Influence.

After we finished asking all of the questions from all of the jurors, they would have to leave the room so we could bring them back in one at a time to get their responses with the idea that they would probably be more candid if they were not in front of everybody else; lest they blurt out something that would make us or the other jurors prejudiced against them.
Choosing The Jury

If we had to pick a six-person jury with one alternate, we would need 11 people out of the group of 16 potential jurorsThe reason is because the prosecutor and I would both have two peremptory challenges. Four of those potential jurors could be excused, because we would only need seven people; six for the jury and one for the alternate.

We would continue asking the general questions until we got down to 11 left from the group, and out of that group, we would pick the jury. Both the judge and the lawyers would ask questions during this process, and after the jury was selected, they would be sworn in, jeopardy would attach and we would begin.

Opening Statements

The next step would be to make our opening statements, which are meant to be a brief description of what we thought the case was about and what the anticipated evidence would be. In my opening statement I tell the jurors that they are allowed to ask questions themselves.

In Arizona, since December, 1994 jurors have had the right to ask their own questions. During this process, jurors would write down their questions while they heard the witnesses testify, and then they would send those questions to the judge.

The judge, the prosecutor and I, would review those questions and make sure they were proper questions in terms of whether they were seeking legally admissible evidence, and then the judge, myself or one of the prosecutors would ask one of the questions.

This is a great procedure because the questions that the jurors ask can sometimes help us to get an idea about what they are thinking. I always end my opening statement by emphasizing that the jurors have a right to ask questions so they could have information.

By emphasizing this right in my opening statement I am implying in effect saying we had nothing to hide, I wanted them to ask all of their questions and we were not trying to keep them from having any evidence and that they had the right to ask the questions themselves.

Witness Testimony

After that, the prosecution would begin and their witnesses would testify. The prosecutors would ask their questions first and I would then cross examine. They would then get to do a redirect if there was any area of questioning I got into which was beyond what the prosecutor asked on their direct examination.

Once the prosecutor were done with their case, I would be able to do what is called a Rule 20, Motion for a Directed Verdict, because the prosecution had failed to present enough evidence would be needed for the jury to convict. Although those are rarely granted, sometimes that can happen.

Presentation Of Evidence

After that, we may or may not present evidence on our own behalf that would usually consist of an expert witness, or like my client or sometimes other witnesses if, although we would often not call any. If my client did not testify, then the judge would instruct the jury they could not infer anything from the fact that my client did not testify.

The State may try rebuttal evidence at the conclusion of our evidence which is evidence to counter something we brought up for the first time as a part of our defense. I am usually very aggressive in preventing rebuttal evidence because the prosecutors often try to use rebuttal to retry their case all over. Once any rebuttals are done, the judge would instruct the jury as to what the law stated so the prosecutor and I would make our closing arguments and the jury would go back and decide the case.

Deciding Whether The Defendant Is Guilty Or Non-Guilty

The case would have to be decided unanimously on each one of the charges; guilty or not guilty. If they could not unanimously agree, then there would be a hung jury on that particular charge.

For example, if the person was found guilty of one charge but hung or the jury could not decide on the other, then that would be the end of the case as a practical matter. If the person was found not guilty of one charge and the jury was hung on the other or if they were hung on all the charges, then it would be up to the prosecutor if they wanted to retry those charges for which there was a hung jury.

This is basically an overview of what happens during the process for a basic misdemeanor trial process for a Driving Under The Influence case. I would send a letter to my client describing this whole process so they could have a better idea before they got to court.

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