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Once the investigation is complete and legal issues have been decided, the client must decide if trial is appropriate. If the plea is a favorable one, such as a plea to a lower charge, that may be the best option. This is especially true if the offered plea is what you hope to get by going to trial. There probably isn’t a good reason to spend more money and time in trial. Trials are long, emotional, and expensive, especially when we need to hire an expert.
In cases that have good facts such an “actual physical control”, and there is no decent plea offer from the prosecutor, trial is a real option. Many times no expert is necessary and the trial is a bit shorter. Prosecutors don’t usually agree that there is a good issue and they ignore it. These are our most normal situations to go to trial. Additionally, when the alcohol concentration is borderline, and there is no good plea offer, it may be worth it to go to trial to get a lesser charge. The difference between a regular DUI and Extreme DUI penalty is significant. These trials will last all of 2 days, if not 3, and require hiring a criminalist.
Finally, sometimes money becomes the issue and the client can’t afford a trial. Other times the case may not be particularly good for us but the client has the money and wants a trial. This decision requires a rather long meeting with me. I never tell clients what to do. I do give input and leave the decision to the client with all the information he/she needs to decide.
This could be an e-book. I will briefly outline a DUI trial. DUI is a criminal offense so the trial follows the guidelines of a criminal trial. First, there is jury selection. The panel of people is randomly chosen by a computer because they live within the city or precinct of the trial, e.g. Scottsdale. Typically a panel has 20-30 people. This number is reduced through the in court selection process. People with prejudices or biases will be eliminated by the Judge, until there are 7 people to sit on the actual jury. 6 decide and 1 is an alternate. This process usually takes 3 hours to complete.
Once the jury is sworn in, the Judge reads preliminary instructions. This gives an overview of the trial, the charges, and the basic rules of the trial. Then, the lawyers give opening statements outlining each side’s theory of the case and witnesses to be called.
After 4-5 hours of preliminaries, the actual trial begins. The state (prosecutor) has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They go first. Typically in a DUI trial, the arresting officer testifies first, unless there was a stopping officer, in which case he/she goes first. In DUI cases, there is usually a cop who makes the initial stop and the calls in a DUI cop to do the investigation. We cross-examine each witness after the prosecutor finishes questioning.
Typically, someone from the crime lab will be called to testify as to the analysis of the blood or breath to get that number into evidence. Cross of the analyst is an art form and very unique to the defense lawyer you hire. I usually go through the process in great detail, to demonstrate how complicated it is and how mistakes can realistically happen. I will cross-examine this person for 1-2 hours. If we are fortunate, this concludes the first day of trial.
If there are civilian witnesses, the state’s case may last into the second day. If the state (prosecutor) rests, then we put on our case. Sometimes we have fact witnesses such as passengers or people from the bar or event where drinking took place to testify as to number of drinks, degree of sobriety, disagreement with the cops version of “bad” driving. Next, if the client needs to testify, they do so, but only after a great deal of preparation. The prosecutor also gets to cross-examine the client and this can get tense. Finally, if we are calling a criminalist to counter the alcohol test, he testifies. He is usually my last witness and his testimony I at least 2 hours including the prosecutor’s cross-examination.
After the defense case is finished, the Prosecutor can call rebuttal witnesses to counter what my witnesses said. Now we are approaching the end of day 2. Finally, the Judge reads final instructions to the jury on the law, and each lawyer conducts closing arguments to try and convince the jury as to each side’s plight. This is where many cases are won or lost. It is also where a seasoned DUI trial attorney can effectively raise reasonable doubt.
Finally, the jury goes to a room to deliberate. There is no time limit on this. We sit outside the courtroom and wait. Because it is a criminal trial, the verdict must be unanimous. 1 hold out and it is a mistrial and we go back a month later and do it again unless the prosecutor makes a better plea offer to resolve the case.
If there was no realistic plea offer other than to plead guilty, and the jury convicts, the sentence is usually the same, no harsher. If there was a plea down a charge offer that was rejected, then the judge must impose the mandatory sentence for the higher crime if convicted. Any jail imposed must be served within 30-40 days of conviction.
To take a case to trial is very expensive. Expert fees will currently run $1500-$2000. Our fee is also several thousand dollars. Money is always a factor in making the trial decision and I get that.
This is where you can really tell if you hired the right lawyer. I try to take command of the courtroom as soon as I enter it. Jurors can sense this and know this not your first trial, and trust me to help them through the trial process. I have tried over 300 jury trials and am very comfortable with any curves that can be thrown at trial. Never panic or let them see concern from your lawyer. I stay in control from beginning to end. Clients have to trust me 100% to give them the best shot at winning. Some clients want to have some control and that doesn’t work with me. My show, my way.
For more information on Trial vs. Plea In Arizona, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (480) 568-1793 today.