The Orange County DUI Trial Process – If your DUI in Orange County goes to trial, this article explains the DUI trial process in Orange County courts. Before a trial can be held, several steps must be taken leading up to a DUI trial including an arraignment and the pretrial process.
Once a trial starts, there are steps during a DUI trial that must take place to find a defendant guilty or not guilty of the alleged drunk driving criminal offense. Below, is a brief overview of the Orange County DUI Trial Process.
Selection of Bench or Jury Trial
If you are charged with a DUI anywhere in California, you, as the Defendant, and the prosecutor could have your trial before a judge or by jury. A trial by judge is called a bench trial.
In a bench trial, only one person makes the decision – the judge. The judge is both the “finder of fact “and the ruler on matters of law and procedure. No jury is selected, or present, during a bench trial and only the judge renders the verdict.
In a jury trial, members of the community that are selected by both sides act as the finder of fact. Like the judge in a bench trial, the jury listens to the evidence that each side presents during the trial and renders a verdict based on the evidence presented.
The court controls the selection of a fair and impartial set of 12 jurors, and however many alternates might be needed. Both the defense lawyer, and the prosecution, can make a brief statement of the case, and to ask questions of the jurors. The goal is to find what biases exist and select, or reject, based upon that.
The opening statement is limited to facts – including a statement of facts about the case and the evidence that will be presented throughout the trial that proves such facts, including whatever the evidence will show.
The prosecutor presents an opening statement first. That is done because the burden of proof rests on him or her to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged DUI offense. Your attorney gives an opening statement for the defense, which usually challenges the credibility of the prosecutor’s statement. Opening statements are not argumentative. You ARE innocent until proven guilty.
An important part of the DUI trial process in Orange County involves testimonial evidence. After opening statements, testimonial evidence is presented to support the prosecutor’s case. There are two types of evidence that may be presented: direct or circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence can consist of an eyewitness account of the events that occurred or a confession. Circumstantial evidence suggests a fact by logical inference. It may consist of the description of a crime scene or physical evidence that suggests a crime was committed. Both forms of evidence can be presented by oral testimony, physical exhibits, images, videos, test results, and other qualified legal documents.
The attorneys may object to some of the evidence presented on legal grounds.
Direct and Cross-Examination
Evidence is presented during the direct examination of witnesses, and the cross-examination of witnesses called by either side. Direct examination questions are open ended to elicit both direct and circumstantial evidence.
Cross-examination is leading questions limited to evidence raised during the direct examination.
Once testimony by both sides has concluded, the prosecutor and your attorney give closing arguments. Closing arguments are where pure argument is allowed, unlike the opening statements. The arguments are made to show what each side believes the evidence did or did not prove. Closing arguments are, like the name implies, argumentative. They emphasize why the judge or jury should rule in the party’s favor. The jury, or the judge, will be asked to vote not guilty by the defense to the DUI charges.
The prosecutor presents a closing argument followed by the defense attorney’s closing argument. Then the prosecutor gets to go again after the defense to wrap up their theory of the case and rebut anything stated by the defense.
Closing arguments are a very important part of the Orange County DUI Trial Process.
After closing arguments, the judge renders a verdict (if it’s a bench trial) or reads jury instructions on the law and how to apply the evidence presented during the trial to reach a verdict.
The possible verdicts in DUI cases are “guilty,” or “not guilty.” Where a jury cannot decide on a verdict, that is known as a hung jury, and the judge may declare a mistrial.
Contact Orange County DUI attorney Robert Miller for a free consultation. We can give you a case evaluation if you have been charged with a DUI. We can also answer any questions about the Orange County DUI Trial Process.