Will Your Atlanta DUI Go To Trial?
Unlike in television, in real life, many cases never go to trial. They get settled before trial, or in the case of criminal offenses, your lawyer can often negotiate a more advantageous outcome to save you time and money, and often jail time as well. However, when it comes to charges for driving under the influence of alcohol in Georgia, many of those cases go to trial. The outcome could be a not guilty verdict, or alternatively it could mean community service, probation, thousands in fines and fees, and even a jail sentence.
One of the reasons so many DUI cases go to trial in Atlanta is that both sides have an incentive to win the case. For state and local prosecutors, they have an incentive to penalize people accused of driving under the influence, because there is a public demand to aggressively go after drunk drivers. Unfortunately, this also means prosecutors going after innocent people, who were not guilty of violating the law.
For drivers facing a possible conviction for a DUI, because the penalties are so severe, they have a real incentive to be found not guilty. A conviction for a DUI can mean losing your ability to drive for up to a year, in addition to the thousands of dollars in higher insurance, fines, and payment for DUI school and substance treatment. Neither side wants to concede because the stakes are so high. As a result, many of the criminal trials in Georgia and the Atlanta Municipal Court system involved DUI charges.
How to Plead: Guilty or Not Guilty
Don't take the decision of whether to plead guilty lightly. It is a serious decision that will result in serious consequences. If you go to your arraignment and court hearings by yourself, you may be tempted to take the first plea deal that the prosecutor offers. This is why you should seriously consider talking to an Atlanta DUI attorney before you go to court. They will be able to tell you what is at stake, and what your options are. In some cases, your DUI defense lawyer may advise you that the prosecution has a weak case, and you have a great chance of winning.
A guilty plea means that you will not have a trial. It will then be up to the judge to determine your punishment. Pleading guilty to a DUI will give you a criminal record, and you'll have to face the consequences of the penalties handed down.
However, if you plead not guilty, then you may end up going to court. Before the trial begins, your DUI lawyer may file motions, to try and get some evidence thrown out if it was improperly gathered or tainted by improper procedures. After those motions are decided, the prosecutor may determine that they don't have much of a case, and the charges may be dropped. Otherwise, the case will continue to the trial.
A DUI trial will usually consist of a jury of six, or in the case of a bench trial, the judge will be the finder of fact. The next step in a jury trial is picking the potential jurors. Both the defense (your lawyer) and the prosecution (the side trying to get you convicted) will try and get the best jurors for their side, using challenges to eliminate some jurors. After that, the trial may begin.
Most DUI trials last about 2 days, so be prepared to be out of work. Unfortunately, trials can also get cancelled and rescheduled, so you may have to be on call over a period of weeks for your DUI trial.
At trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proof, so they will go first. The prosecutor will lay out the case, what their evidence is, and the witnesses they have on their side. Your DUI defense lawyer does not have to prove that you are innocent, but only to put enough doubt into the minds of the jury so that the prosecution cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Although, depending on the facts of the case, the defense lawyer can introduce evidence in support of your position, to further damage the prosecution's case. You may want to proactively present evidence in support of your innocence. But what evidence do you have that shows you weren't guilty of driving under the influence? There may be more evidence in support of your position than you know.
If you failed a field sobriety test, you may want to present medical records to show that a prior injury or medical condition makes it difficult for you to complete those inaccurate standardized walk-and-turn or one-leg-stand tests.
You may also have witness to present in support of your case. This could come from people who can testify that you were not drunk, such as a passenger who was with you the entire day and saw you only have one drink hours before driving, or that you swerved to avoid something in the road rather than as the result of drunken driving. Additionally expert witnesses can give their expert opinion on why chemical breath, blood or urine tests were not accurate.
However, in the same way your DUI lawyer can cross-examine the police officer and other state witnesses, the prosecutor can cross-examine the defense witnesses. So the decision as to whether to present evidence or witnesses should be weighed carefully.
After both sides present their opening statement, their evidence and witnesses, each side will be able to respond. During closing arguments, the prosecutor will sum up their case, and try and convince the jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Then your Atlanta DUI defense lawyer will sum up their position. Finally, the prosecutor will respond to the defense, and the jury will deliberate your fate.
If found guilty, the judge will then determine the sentence. If found not guilty, you have won your case. However, in some cases, either side may appeal the judge's or jury's decision, which could drag out your case even longer.
Atlanta DUI Trial
If you got arrested for a DUI, whether your case goes to trial or not will depend on a lot of factors, including whether you plead guilty. Having a DUI lawyer on your side can make a big difference in your case. They understand the process, the strengths and weaknesses, and can help you make the best decision for your future. As a Georgia DUI Defense firm, we have dedicated our professional career to defending people charged with drunk driving offenses. We will fight to defend you in any DUI trial, so call us today.