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What Happens at a DUI Trial?

If you have been arrested for DUI and you are going to trial, you are probably wondering what will happen. Hopefully, you have hired a DUI lawyer who has explained the DUI process to you and is ready to present a solid DUI defense, but even if you have a DUI lawyer, it is likely you are nervous and scared, especially if this is your first DUI arrest.

You may have heard your DUI lawyer mention a lot of fancy terms such as blood alcohol or tainted blood defense. You may have questions about the DUI process. How is the jury selected? What will the prosecutor say in their opening statement? Is your DUI attorney ready to present your DUI defense?

In every state the DUI process is similar. Hopefully, you have a skilled DUI attorney who has investigated the circumstances of your DUI arrest, he has answered all of your trial questions, and he is ready to defend you at your DUI trial.

The DUI Trial

Under the United States Constitution, you have the right to a public and speedy trial. “Speedy” may be a subjective, but in some states if you are in police custody your DUI trial must be scheduled within 30 days from your arraignment. If you are not in police custody, the state may have 45 days to begin your trial. Trial dates may be extended at the request of your DUI lawyer.

DUI trials which are not commenced on or before the expiration date must be dismissed by the state. Under some conditions, the state may have an extra 10 days from the trial date to start the trial. The DUI trial is considered “commenced” if the jury panel has been sworn in.

A DUI trial is like all other criminal proceedings and there are certain procedures and processes which must be followed. First, the prosecution will present their DUI case against you. This can include testimony by the arresting officer and expert witnesses.

If an expert witness is called to testify they may present evidence for the breath or blood test, opinions about the legality of the field sobriety test and whether or not your blood alcohol level would have caused you to be impaired and unable to safely operate your vehicle.

Each witness for the prosecution will be cross-examined by your DUI defense lawyer. Cross-examination of the prosecuting witnesses, if effective, should put doubt in the mind of the jurors about your guilt. Often the DUI lawyer attempts to shift the focus from your DUI test results, physical appearance at the time of the arrest, your field sobriety test or driving patterns, and attempts instead, to create doubt in the juror’s minds about the legality of how each test was administered.

After each witness has been cross-examined, the DUI defense lawyer will present defense witnesses. This is your chance to tell your side of the story and what really happened when you were arrested for DUI. Keep in mind that a juror may assume the witnesses that the defense calls will naturally favor the defense, and they may tend to discount or dismiss their testimony. After all defense witnesses are questioned by the defense, the prosecuting attorney will have their opportunity to cross-examine each defense witness.

After each side is finished calling their witnesses it is time for the closing arguments for the DUI case. The closing arguments are the DUI defense attorney’s last chance to explain their side of the story to the jury. Most jurors have probably made up their minds by this point, but a persuasive closing argument may be enough to sway their opinion and add credibility to your story.

What if you are convicted of DUI?

If you are convicted of DUI, even as a first time DUI offender, you may face severe DUI penalties. DUI penalties vary by state but can include:

• High fines • Mandatory alcohol education classes • Mandatory installation of a ignition interlock system • Jail time • Probation • Community Service

If you have been arrested for DUI, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to contact a DUI lawyer. DUI lawyers understand DUI laws and can answer your questions and begin developing your DUI defense.