DUI Trials in DeKalb County
When a person is arrested and charged for driving under the influence, their first thought may be to figure out how they could challenge the state’s case for pursuing these charges. If they wish to do so, they may have to take their case all the way to trial, which is no easy task to undertake.
If you have been charged, you should seek the assistance of a skilled attorney at Hawkins Spizman familiar with the DUI trials in DeKalb County. Doing so could better prepare you for what is to come.
Selecting a Jury
One of the first steps in a criminal trial is selecting the jury that will decide the case. The judge will bring in a panel of potential jurors and each side, the prosecutor and defense lawyer, has the opportunity to ask questions of each juror and the general panel to determine who would be the best fit. Not every juror is the right fit for a specific case. People have inherent biases and these biases have to be considered whenever one is selecting a jury.
During jury selection, the lawyers are trying to determine which jurors may have a bias against their side of the case. If a potential juror was injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, they are probably not a good individual to hear an impaired driving case. Similar to that, if an individual has a family member who died of a drug overdose, they probably should not hear a drug case. Once the juror is selected and sworn, the judge will allow each side to give an opening statement.
The opening statement is where each side provides their theory of the case or what they believe the evidence will show. This portion of the trial is not considered evidence, but rather an outline of what the jurors should expect during the trial.
Presentation of Evidence and Cross-Examination
After opening statements are done, the prosecutor will go first and call what is referred to as their case and chief, where they begin the presentation of evidence. During this process, they will call their witnesses, which usually includes police officers, crime lab toxicologist, breath testers, etc. Once the prosecution is done questioning the State’s witnesses, the defense lawyer has the opportunity to cross-examine each of these witnesses.
Once the prosecution is done with their presentation of the evidence, they will announce that the State has rested. Oftentimes the defense lawyer may not call any witnesses if they believe the State has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no burden of proof whatsoever on the defense, and jurors are instructed that if the Defendant chooses not to testify at trial, that cannot be held against them.
Once both sides have rested, the lawyers will be given the opportunity to summarize their view of the evidence for the jury. Closing arguments are the last time the lawyers can address the jury directly, and it is important to effectively give the jurors the reasons why the State has, or has, not proven their case.
Prior to closing arguments, the judge will have a jury charge conference, meaning the judge will go through the applicable law with the prosecutor and the defense lawyer to discuss what instructions will be given to the jury. Once the jury has been instructed on the law to be applied to the case, they will be excused to jury room, where they will begin their deliberations.
At the conclusion of their deliberations, the jury must reach a decision of guilty or not guilty on each of the charges. If they find the Defendant guilty on any charge, then at that point in time the judge will sentence.
Sometimes, juries cannot come to a decision. In those cases, they will generally be told that they need to go back and continue their deliberations until they can reach a verdict. Jury decisions have to be unanimous, meaning that in a misdemeanor criminal case, all six jurors have to agree on a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Whatever their decision is, everyone has to be in agreement. If after repeated instructions from the judge, the jury still cannot agree on a unanimous verdict, the judge can declare a mistrial. In that event, the Defendant can face trial again, and the whole trial process starts over. In some cases, the prosecutor may realize their case is not strong enough for a jury to reach a unanimous verdict, and a plea offer that is more beneficial to the Defendant may be offered to resolve the case.