Virginia DUI Jury Trials
A person facing drunk driving charges need to determine if they should have their hearing heard as a bench or jury trial. There are certainly some cases where a jury might be considered favorable. If a person has a relatively low BAC like a 0.08 or below and the government insists on going forward with the charges.
Arguments can certainly be made to Virginia DUI jury trials to challenge even the science behind the breath testing, forcing the government to acknowledge the flaws with their breath testing processes, thereby casting reasonable doubt into whether or not the person was actually intoxicated at the time that they were driving. If you are facing drunk driving charges, you will need a Virginia DUI lawyer who understands the local jurisdiction.
What is the Difference Between a Bench Trial and a Jury Trial?
A bench trial is a trial where a judge sits as the finder of fact. A jury trial administers the role of the judge to essentially the person who follows in its tracks which may find admissibility of evidence and rules over objects through forms of questioning and things like that, but a jury is the one that is going to determine the person’s guilt or innocence, not the judge.
Sometimes, it might be better to have a bench trial because a person is charged with a felony DUI and that person will be sentenced according to sentencing guidelines whereas if a jury hears that case, the jury will recommend a sentence and, very often, juries will sentence extraordinarily high on felony DUIs and therefore, someone might one to head his or her bets and have the trial in front of a judge so the person could be sentenced within the sentencing guidelines which are generally much lower than jury sentences.
Common Traits of a DUI Case
The most common example of cases that are best decided by a jury are cases that have low BACs. If a person has a low BAC, that person has the ability to exploit the flaws in the testing process that the government uses to determine the BAC. There are several flaws within that testing process. There are several variables that the breath test machine does not account for but instead, makes assumptions based on the general public. If an expert witness can be called upon by the defense to testify as to those flaws, the jury can be left feeling like the breath test is not reliable and the person should be acquitted.
Potential Benefits of a Jury Trial
Jurors are regular people and jurors understand that generally speaking, the government has the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt and, generally speaking, jurors hold the government closer to that standard. Because of that, when the defense is able to exploit flaws in the government’s testing processes and show the errors that just because a machine says one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that that machine is 100% accurate and should be blindly relied upon. If the jurors can be made to understand that and the case involves a low BAC then, generally speaking, the jury is likely to find the person not guilty.
Consequences of a Jury Trial
If there is a case where people might be injured in traffic accidents or have an extraordinarily high BAC or where the person has a history of prior DUIs, juries tend to sentence much more harshly than judges do. Therefore, whenever a case has any of those variables that could be seen as damaging to the case, a person would be well-advised under most circumstances to avoid a jury because, if convicted, the jury can sentence the person much more harshly than a judge would.
Jury Selection Process
Jury selection is what is called voir dire. Voir dire is a process where the attorneys for both sides get to ask questions of the jurors in an effort to uncover biases or pre-determined comments about DUI cases generally. If the lawyer is able to reveal that a juror is against people who drink and drive more than a normal person might be, then they might ask that person to be stricken for cause because they have preexisting biases against people who drink and drive. It is important for the lawyers to know circumstances on the defense side to remind jurors that it is not illegal to drive, it is illegal to be drunk and to drive.