Judge or Jury Trial? Defending DUI

Should you get a judge or jury to hear your defense of drinking and driving charges? Unfortunately, most states are now making it next to next to impossible to have your DUI case heard in front of a jury of your peers. Why? What if you can get a jury trial? What’s the difference? And if you can’t, how do you prove your innocence to a judge who’s seen hundreds of DUI your innocence?

Why no jury?

DUI cases are now becoming less “a jury of your peers” and more a judge who hears DUI defenses all the time. This is because of a change in state laws and interpretations of federal law (not to mention the Constitution). Most DUI cases are now in front of a judge. According to federal law, you have a right to make your case in front of a jury. According to many state laws, DUI (or DWI and OWI) are considered less important than other criminal law cases. While it may seem odd that months in jail, several years probation, thousands in court fines, and more penalties are minor, but that’s the case.

Can you get a jury trial?

Some states will consider a jury trial, but most won’t. For example, New Jersey and Arizona have recently denied jury trials for DUI cases. If you can get one, it can quite often be beneficial to your case.

What’s the difference?

Judges are not necessarily given to preformed opinions on cases, but when it comes to certain laws, many are much stricter than juries. However, the laws can be far more complicated in front of a jury, even if you have some advantages. You have to make a jury request, deposit jury fees with the court, and in most cases select a jury. This can all be time consuming. Many believe the human factor differentiates a judge trial from a  jury trial. You may get more consideration from people who don’t see DUI cases all the time.

Is a judge better?
In DUI cases, having a judge is not necessarily a bad move. It saves you time, and with a DUI lawyer, it can save you money in work hours.  A judge trial can be less serious, more informal, and generally shorter than a jury trial.

How do you prove innocence?
Proving you were not drinking and driving does not always mean you prove not drinking at all. Judges have to consider the validity of the tests and the actions of the officer who pulled you over. If the BAC (blood alcohol content) level was very close to the limit, it can create some doubt in the judge. In jury cases, it can do the same. You can also question why the officer pulled you over, how the breathalyzer was given, if you were told of your rights, and more.

Defending a DUI in front a jury can be beneficial to your case. If a jury trial is an option, it should be a decision for you and a DUI lawyer.

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