How Often Do DUI Cases Go to Trial?
DUI cases are considered criminal charges in California. Therefore, each DUI case has the chance of going to trial.
In reality, most DUI cases are resolved without going to trial. That does not necessarily mean that all DUI cases that do not go to trial end in a guilty verdict. If you have a strong defense to the drunk driving charges, you could avoid both a trial and a conviction.
How are DUI Cases Resolved?
There are several ways that your DUI case can be resolved before the case comes up for a trial.
Your DUI defense lawyer might negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution. A plea deal could involve a reduction of the criminal penalties. The prosecutor might agree to drop the DUI charges to reckless driving or other traffic offenses.
After investigating the charges against you and your DUI arrest, your attorney may discover evidence that your legal rights were violated. If that is the case, evidence gathered during the DUI stop and arrest could be thrown out of court. The DUI charges could be dismissed for lack of evidence.
If the evidence against you is insufficient to support probable cause for an arrest, the judge could also dismiss the DUI charges. In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer is able to convince the prosecution to drop the charges because the case against you is weak.
If you do not reach a plea agreement with the prosecution and the court does not dismiss the charges, your DUI case proceeds to trial.
What Happens at a DUI Trial?
When your case goes to trial, 12 jurors are selected to hear your case. The jurors listen to the evidence presented by both parties. They then apply the law as instructed by the judge to the evidence to decide whether you are guilty or not guilty.
If you are found not guilty, the charges against you are dropped. If the jury finds you guilty of DUI, the judge decides your sentence. The sentence depends on the specific DUI charges you face, but can include:
- License suspension
- Interlock ignition device
- DUI school
Because there are no guarantees of a specific outcome in a trial, it is essential to weigh all factors before deciding whether to take a DUI case to trial or settle the case with a plea agreement.
Potential Defenses You Might Use During a DUI Trial
If you decide to proceed to trial, your DUI defense lawyer may argue one or more defenses at trial. The defense strategy depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Potential defense strategies might include:
- Attacking the field sobriety tests
- Establishing alternative explanations for breathalyzer results, such as a medical condition, use of mouthwash, or malfunctions with the machine
- Alleging a violation of your civil rights
- Attacking whether the officers had probable cause for a traffic stop
- Contamination of the blood alcohol samples or improper storage of the samples
- Violations of the rules of procedure and evidence
- Improper interrogation methods
There could be other defenses available based on the facts of your case. A comprehensive analysis and investigation of the DUI charges are necessary to determine the case’s strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you decide whether it is best to plead guilty or take your DUI case to court.
How Do You Determine Whether You Should Go to Trial on a DUI Charge?
If you do not have an attorney, it may be difficult to decide if going to trial or accepting a plea agreement is in your best interest. The prosecutor is not going to tell you whether the case against you is strong or weak. The prosecutor is also not going to tell you whether you are being offered the best plea agreement available.
Because you could be facing possible jail time, fines, and other penalties for a DUI conviction, you might want to discuss your case with a DUI lawyer. You would not want to plead guilty to a DUI charge and find out later that your case could have been dismissed because the police violated your rights during the arrest.
Instead, discuss the potential defenses with a lawyer and your chances of winning if you go to trial. Then you can make an informed decision on how to resolve the DUI charges against you.