No one wants to see the insides of the Georgia criminal justice system, but sometimes, you don't have a choice. If you've been pulled over by police, arrested, and charged for driving under the influence (DUI), then hang on tight – you're about to be taken on a tour of the Georgia courts.
As disheartening as it might seem, getting pulled through the judicial system on a DUI charge can be downright scary if you don't have an experienced DUI attorney guiding you through the process. Having to understand all of the unfamiliar parts of the system without someone there to help can be imposing, or maybe even impossible.
For example, even something as basic as witnesses can be overwhelming to understand, if you haven't seen how things work, a few times. While witnesses seem like they should be simple and straightforward, in reality, they're far from it. Further, determining which witnesses to call to the stand is a huge decision that can greatly impact the outcome of your case. Having someone on hand who has defended similar cases to yours is a huge asset to your defense, as they can give invaluable guidance on this important, and confusing, decision.
Here are some quick basics that you should be aware of, when it comes to the role of witnesses in a DUI case.
Witnesses Role in the Court Process
Witnesses as a whole have a huge role to play in the court process. They are used to show and tell the jury what actually happened when you got pulled over for DUI, and whether you're innocent or guilty of the charge against you.
Both the prosecution and the defense can call witnesses in a DUI case. The prosecution often calls more of them, to prove that you're guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. They'll often bring the police officer to the stand, to tell the jury about the traffic stop, as well as law enforcement or medical personnel who handled the evidence that's being used against you. Your defense attorney can call other witnesses to the traffic stop, such as yourself, a passenger in your car, or an innocent bystander who saw the whole thing.
Once a witness has been brought to the stand and testified about what they saw, the side that didn't call that witness gets to cross-examine them, to bring into doubt the things that they said. This examination and cross-examination process continues until one side decides that they have no further questions. Then the next witness is brought forward, and everything starts all over, again.
Not all witnesses are the same, though. There are regular witnesses, and there are expert witnesses. While the process for questioning both is similar, the kind of information that they can provide is very different.
Regular witnesses are the witnesses that have intimate knowledge about what happened in your particular case. Examples of regular witnesses are you, the responding policeman, and the nurse who drew blood for a blood alcohol test, if one was administered. These people all have direct knowledge of the evidence being used in your DUI case.
These witnesses can answer questions about what actually happened. The police officer can talk about why he or she pulled your car over. You can talk about whether you'd been drinking, or what the cop did during a field sobriety test. The nurse can describe how he or she drew blood, and what the correct protocol was for a blood draw.
One important thing to note about regular witnesses in DUI cases is that you, as the defendant, do not have to testify. If you want to, you can invoke your constitutional right not to incriminate yourself, and refuse to take the stand in your own defense.
While this might seem like a strange move to make, sometimes it can be a wise one. By testifying, you open yourself up to a cross-examination by the prosecutor. This can hurt your case, if you make a mistake and say something that you don't mean. Additionally, testifying on your own behalf is not something that you necessarily have to do – it's up to the prosecution to prove that you're guilty, not up to you to show that you're innocent. Sometimes, a good DUI defense attorney can poke enough holes in the prosecutor's case that you don't need to raise much of your own defense.
In addition to regular witnesses, there's the other category – expert witnesses. Expert witnesses have no direct contact with your particular case, but have lots of intimate knowledge of how certain things work in the DUI world. This allows them to make expert opinions about your case.
For example, there are some people who are experts on the breath and blood testing machines that the police use to gather evidence of a DUI crime. These experts know how these machines work and, more importantly for you, how they don't work. They know all the ways that police can manipulate them to get a false positive, and how they can produce inaccurate results.
Using this knowledge, expert witnesses can testify at your trial about how the machine used in your case could be wrong. This can be particularly damning evidence for the prosecutor, who's trying to show that the results mean you're guilty. However, there's a catch to using expert witnesses in your defense – they're often expensive to hire.
As you can see, the decisions involved in figuring out which witnesses to use in your case, and how to use them, is surprisingly complex. As a DUI defense attorneys, we have developed techniques that get the most out of all of the available witnesses, in order to best defend you. Call our office to tap into the knowledge that we have built up over the course of a career defending against DUI charges in the state of Georgia.