The consequences of a DUI charge go beyond any legal penalties. A DUI charge goes on your record and could make it difficult to obtain a job, especially if the position requires you to drive. Additionally, this charge could be embarrassing and damaging to your reputation. Fortunately, a knowledgeable attorney could walk you through each step of the Charleston DUI trial process.
Preparing for Trial
It is important to begin preparing for trial well in advance and to communicate with a Charleston attorney experienced with DUI cases. If the defendant intends to testify, they should work with an attorney to practice what questions might be asked, learn how they should be answered, and understand the strategies for testifying. Thorough preparation can put the defendant in a better position at trial.
What is the DUI Litigation Process?
On the day of trial, the prosecution and defense will give their opening statements after a jury is picked. In a municipal or magistrate court in Charleston, six jurors will preside over the case, and in state court, twelve jurors will preside over the case. After opening statements, the prosecution will call their witnesses, and the defense has an opportunity to cross-examine them. At the end of their case, the defense will have the opportunity to present their witnesses, who may also be cross-examined by the prosecution. Next, each side will deliver their closing arguments, and the jury will deliberate and render a verdict.
Opening statements are both parties’ opportunities to explain what the evidence will show the jury. The defense counsel should introduce their main points and theories during opening statements to immediately begin persuading the jury.
The state presents its case first in Charleston DUI trials. The prosecutor will typically represent the state, but sometimes the state may be represented by the arresting officer, depending on the jurisdiction that the case is being tried in.
Provided that the defense has already prepared their cross-examination before trial, the defense should listen as the prosecution presents its case, witnesses, and evidence to the jury for anything that might contradict or cast doubt on the state’s argument or their witnesses’ statements. The prosecution may cross-examine the defense’s witnesses, just as the defense may cross-examine the government’s witnesses.
Both sides will issue closing statements. Closing statements are the defense’s final opportunity to pull all the evidence together and outline how it supports the theory of the driver’s innocence.
Typically, trials last for one or two days for DUI first offender cases, and possibly a few days longer if the individual is facing their second, third, or fourth DUI. If the case is a felony DUI, the trial could last several days, if not a week.
What Evidence is Used in DUI Trials?
The state will present any evidence it feels is indicative of the driver’s impairment. This could include video from the arresting officer’s patrol car of the accused individual’s driving, video of field sobriety tests, statements made at the scene by the driver, testimony from expert witnesses, and evidence from the breathalyzer room, regardless of whether or not the driver took a breathalyzer test. The prosecution’s goal is to use all evidence that will leave no room for reasonable doubt that the driver was under the influence at the time of the arrest.
It is the defense’s responsibility to offer an alternative explanation for the evidence or to provide additional evidence that the prosecution failed to present. Eyewitness statements, medical records, and anything that could mitigate allegations of being under the influence could be used to bolster the defense’s position. Sometimes, experts are also presented by the defense to help the jury better understand the evidence in the case. Each case is unique, however, and evidence will vary with each defendant’s circumstances.
Ask a Charleston Attorney for Guidance Through the DUI Trial Process
DUI charges could have life-long consequences. Therefore, it is vital to enlist help in building a strong case to protect your future. A qualified attorney could work with you through a Charleston DUI trial process. Call today and schedule your first consultation.