The DUI Trial Process Explained
Although DUI trial procedures vary from court to court, the following is a rough blueprint of the typical DUI jury trial:
Motions in Limine and “housekeeping” items: The first thing that typically takes place is a discussion, typically on the record, about the ground rules of the DUI trial. Basic parameters are set as to who will testify, and what they will be allowed to testify to. Also decided is who will be allowed to remain in the courtroom and who must be excluded, and many other issues depending on the case.
Jury Selection: In jury trials, a jury is typically brought in towards the beginning. The selection of jury selection, or voir dire as it’s known, can last anywhere from an hour to several days, depending on the court. The jurors will be asked questions by the judge, the lawyers or both, and from these answers the lawyers will assess which jurors they want to challenge.
Opening Statements: Each side will make an opening statement which is designed to give the jury a preview of things to come.
The State’s Case: The state goes first in putting on its evidence. This is because the state has the burden of proof, as DUI is a criminal charge.
More Motions: After the State rests its case, the defense may make a motion to dismiss if it believes that all of the evidence needed to secure a conviction was not presented.
The Defense Case: If the Defense chooses to put on a case, the DUI defense lawyer calls witnesses.
Closing Arguments: Each side is entitled to argue their case. The prosecutor goes first. Then the defense attorney has his or her turn. Then the prosecutor gets to “rebut” whatever the DUI defense lawyer said. The prosecutor gets the last word.
Jury Instructions: The judge must instruct the jury on how to decide the case. The written instructions are typically read into the record, and the jury will get copies of the instructions when they retire to the jury room to deliberate.
Deliberations: The jury is typically given whatever time they need to reach a decision.
The Verdict: When the jury returns a verdict, the judge will typically read it into the record. In some states, the jury foreperson reads it. If the defendant is acquitted, the trial ends. If the defendant is convicted, the the following steps may occur:
Polling The Jury: Most state provide the right of either party to request that the jury be polled to make sure that the verdict reflects the decision of each and every member of the jury. In some jurisdictions this is done automatically. In others, it is done only at the request of a party.
More Motions: The defense may make a motion to set the verdict aside, or a motion for a new trial. The prosecutor may make a motion for the defendant to be taken to jail immediately.
Sentencing: Occurs sometime after a verdict of guilty. It can be right away, but in some states and jurisdictions, there is a delay between conviction and sentencing.
Appeal: If the defense or prosecutor appeals a case, it goes up to the next higher court level. The DUI appeals process can take months or even years in some areas.