If you are charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol in Hall County, you can reasonably expect to be offered a plea deal. While many people find a plea bargain is in their best interests, sometimes a trial is the preferred route. Most cases don't go to trial, so a DUI trial may be something you are unfamiliar with. Once your case is set for trial, here's what to expect.
The Difference Between a Trial Setting and a Trial
Once a case is set for trial, most defendants reasonably believe that means they will have their trial on that day. There are a number of reasons why that may not be the case. First, there are a limited number of judges available to hear trials on any given day. If there are more things going to trial than judges available, some of those cases will have to be reset for trial on a different day. However, before resetting the case, some judges and many prosecutors will make another attempt at negotiating the case. You should expect another offer to plead guilty in exchange for some consequence or another. You do not have to accept this offer. None the less, you should be prepared to hear an offer. If your case does not resolve, and the court cannot accommodate your case for trial, you will get a new trial date and be on your way.
Going to Trial – Picking a Jury or Judge
Once your case is actually going to trial, you have a decision to make. With the exception of federal park DUI cases, you have the choice of trying your case to a jury of your peers, or to the judge directly. There are pros and cons to both choices. Often, the best decision is one made in conjunction with your lawyer after taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances of your case. If you choose a jury trial, the first step is selecting the jurors. Your lawyer will do that, with your input as to the choice of which jurors to keep and which jurors to strike.
The first step of the actual trial, once the fact finder or fact finders have been selected, is opening statements. Opening statements are designed to provide the jurors with a road map of where each attorney believes the case is going. The prosecution may focus on the test result, while the defense attorney may focus on the sloppy evidence handling procedures. The DUI defense your attorney relies on will, of course, be case specific.
Witnesses for the State
The government has the burden of proving each element of the case. To do this, they must bring in witnesses to testify to the facts they believe prove each element. The testimony must be in open court, in the defendant's presence. Your lawyer, as the defense attorney, has the right to cross-examine the state's witnesses on any issue they deem relevant to the case. This could include such things as a witness's ability to see the events in question, the content of any video which contradicts their testimony, challenges to a witnesses credentials, just to name a few.
Witnesses for the Defendant
Unlike the government, who has an affirmative duty to prove their charge, the defense does not have to prove anything. They are not required to call any witnesses. They do not have to introduce any evidence. In many cases, the evidence that is brought out by the state's witnesses on direct and cross-examination are sufficient for the defense to argue for a verdict of not guilty. However, if there are defense witnesses, they are called after the state has called all of their witnesses. Like the state's witnesses, after they have provided direct examination, they will be subject to cross-examination. The defense attorney can do a re-direct examination, and the prosecution can follow with a re-cross-examination. This continues until both attorneys are satisfied they have the information they need that is relevant to the case.
Defendant May Testify
The other decision a defendant gets to make in a jury trial is whether or not they testify on their own behalf. While they are entitled to do so, defendants in criminal cases cannot be forced to testify. Often, particularly if all a defendant can say is, “I didn't do this,” there is no utility in testifying. However, sometimes the defendant has facts or circumstances that are essential to a defense, and, after consultation with their attorney, they choose to testify on their own behalf. Just as with any other witness, a defendant who testifies is subject to cross-examination by the prosecution.
The main difference between openings and closings is that openings are “statements” and closings are “arguments.” At the end of the case, both the prosecution and the defense argue to the fact finder what the evidence proved and what reasonable inferences could be drawn for the evidence. They argue for findings of guilty or not guilty. A defendant does not have to prove he is innocent. Instead, the prosecution must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the trial concludes, the factfinder makes a finding of either guilty or not guilty. If the trial is to a jury, the jury deliberates until they reach a unanimous verdict. If the case is tried to the judge, the court may take the case under advisement and issue a ruling later. Alternatively, they may rule from the bench.
Are You Charged with DUI?
If you are facing DUI charges, contact our Hall County DUI Attorneys. We have experience challenging DUI stops, negotiating DUI case resolutions, and litigating DUI cases at trial. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call for a free consultation at 404.816.4440. We look forward to working with you.