Being charged with a DUI does not require pleading guilty. Everyone has rights, even people who are accused of violating the law. Anyone who decides to fight a DUI in court should retain a DUI lawyer and learn the process followed in criminal trials. Understanding how to fight the charges before stepping into the courtroom reduces the stress involved.
Traffic Ticket Trials
DUI cases include many steps followed during jury trials for traffic tickets. Defendant’s counsel should present an opening statement immediately after the prosecutor does the same. Jurors are quick to decide whether a defendant is innocent or guilty so reserving this statement until just before the testimony may be too late. A good lawyer will present this statement in a straightforward manner and will not insult the arresting officer.
Roles of Witnesses
The prosecution uses an expert witness in most DUI trials and this individual is usually the arresting officer. Though the officer may have been trained in DUI laws and operation of testing equipment, this individual is probably not qualified to testify about the measurement process and the effect that alcohol may have on the physical and mental abilities of an individual. Proving this requires having an expert witness of one’s own rather than merely cross-examining the officer.
An expert witness such as a toxicologist can be expensive, but financial relief may be available for indigent defendants. Observer witnesses, which are not paid but are sometimes helpful, may also be presented. These individuals testify regarding directly observable facts that could help the case. They should not have ties to the defendant but be able to testify objectively based on their observations.
Prior to the trial, the defense attorney may schedule a hearing to suppress evidence. This occurs when the police obtained evidence illegally or made an illegal arrest. If the defense believes that the law enforcement officer did not have probable cause to make the car stop, a motion to suppress is usually filed to prevent subsequent testing or observations from being introduced. Evidence that is suppressed may not be used by the prosecution at the trial.
The defendant is usually the only witness to counteract claims made by the arresting officer. Defendants and their attorneys should discuss whether taking the stand is a wise move. A defendant must appear credible to the jury and be able to withstand cross-examination by the prosecution. Defendants with knowledge of strategies and good lawyers can win DUI trials without testifying.