DUI Jury Deliberations and Verdicts
The process by which a DUI jury decides a DWI case.
Experienced DUI lawyers will tell you that the worst part of any DWI trial is the jury deliberation phase. This is because by the time the jury gets the case, there is little or nothing more that a DUI attorney can do to help his or her client.
There are dozens of books written about jury dynamics. All of them attempt to explain what goes on in the jury room in the average case. The problem is that observers are never allowed into the jury room, so it is always a guess as to what jurors are thinking and doing as they set about deciding the issues in a DUI case.
How long do jury deliberations take in a DUI case? It depends on the case. Some DUI juries come back in 10 minutes with a verdict, while others deliberate for days. Some people think that the longer a jury deliberates in a DUI case, the better it is for the defense. However, experienced DUI attorneys will tell you not to read into how long a jury deliberates or “is out.”
Juror Questions: It is very common for the jury to have questions that they want answered as they deliberate. Typically, questions are done by passing a note to the judge through the bailiff our court clerk. Once the judge has the question, he or she will typically call the lawyers into court or chambers to discuss the question and propose an answer. The most common questions are about pieces of evidence. The most common response given to this type of question is something to the effect of “you must rely on your memory of the case and any notes you took during the trial.” In other words, courts will not answer factual questions.
Some other common jury questions in DUI trials are:
- Has the defendant every gotten a DUI before?
- Why didn’t the defendant testify?
- Can we hear or read portions of the testimony again?
- Does the officer have any discipline record?
- Was the breath test machine working in this case?
There are many other questions, and frankly, some seem to come out of left field.
Most DUI attorneys will wait around the courthouse with their client for a jury verdict. It is not uncommon for an attorney to wait two days for a verdict in a trial that took only two days to present. It is part of the job, and one of the reasons why most DUI lawyers prefer flat fees to hourly billing.
The DUI Jury Verdict:
When the jury has reached a verdict, the parties are rounded up and brought into the courtroom. When everybody is present, the bailiff will typically bring the jury in. The judge will then ask the jury who the foreperson is, and then ask that person to pass up the verdict slip or slips.
After the judge looks at the verdict slips, the judge will then either ask the foreperson to recite the verdicts or will recite the verdicts him or herself.
What is a “hung jury?”
If all of the jurors can’t agree and they tell the judge that they are hopelessly deadlocked, the jury is deemed to be hung. The impasse causes a mistrial and the case concludes. After a mistrial, it is possible for the state to try a DUI defendant again. A good DUI defense lawyer may be able to prevent this in certain cases.