Earlier this month, I wrote about what you can expect in court when preparing for DUI hearings. Today, I go further in-depth, providing information on what to expect if your case goes to trial. Hiring a DUI lawyer gives you a better advantage to avoid going to trial; however, if your case does go to trial you will most certainly want an attorney to represent you in court. If your DUI court case goes to a criminal trial, a jury examines the evidence and decides whether the defendant is guilty of committing the crime they are accused of, in this case, driving while under the influence of intoxicants (DUII).
Types of DUI Trials in Oregon
If you have been accused of a DUI in Oregon and the case goes to trial, you will either be tried by a judge alone or to a jury. A bench trial occurs when no jury is present, only a judge. A judge must determine questions of both law and fact. During a jury trial, the jury determines questions of fact and the judge interprets the law. The United States Consitution and the Oregon Constitution entitle a defendant to a jury trial if accused of a crime, which includes any type of Oregon DUI charge.
DUI Bench Trial in Oregon
If the court grants a defendant’s request for a bench trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drunk driver is guilty of the charge. The judge will determine if the prosecution succeeded in doing that.
Both judges and juries must consider the evidence objectively, leaving sympathy and emotion out of the equation. Judges deal with grieving families and victims daily and while jurors may be shocked and emotional about a story, it will hardly affect the judge. Judges have a better understanding of the law. Cases with complicated legal details may prompt a defendant to waive a jury trial and opt for a bench trial in Oregon. In Oregon DUI cases, bench trials tend to be less time-consuming and less formal than a jury trial.
DUI Jury Trial in Oregon
Juries are made up of everyday citizens who must come to a unanimous decision in order to convict. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision then they are called a hung jury. In Oregon, a hung jury in a six-person misdemeanor DUI leads to a mistrial, which often means the entire case may need to be retired. In Oregon, a misdemeanor DUI is tried by a jury of six and a felony DUI is tried by a jury of 12. Many defendants prefer six or 12 minds collaborating rather than the single mind of a judge. The number of jurors depends on the charge.
Phases of the DUI Court Case Trial
- Jury Selection — Each side’s attorney asks questions of the jury to determine if they are impartial to the case. From this information, each side helps hoose the jury before the Oregon DUI trial begins.
- Opening Statements — The trial begins with both the prosecution and the defense delivering their opening statements.
- Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination — The prosecution calls their first witness to testify. The witness testifies and then the defense has the opportunity to cross-examine this person. Next, the defense calls a witness and the prosecution has the opportunity to cross-examine. This continues until all witnesses have been called.
- Closing Statements — After all witnesses have been called, each side has the chance to offer their closing statements or closing arguments. This often includes an overview of the evidence and is the last chance for each side to persuade the jury in their favor.
- Jury Instruction — A judge then instructs the jury on the legal standards they must follow when making their decision. The judge determines these standards based on the circumstances of the case and the charges against the defendant.
- Deliberation and Verdict — The jury deliberates the facts of the case and must come to a unanimous decision on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the case may be thrown out and will begin again with a newly selected jury.
If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty or no contest, the judge sets a sentencing hearing. This may or may not occur on the same day as the trial or the plea. DUI sentencing may possibly include:
- Jail Time
- Driver’s License Suspension
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Attendance at a Victim Impact Panel
Hire a DUI Attorney
If your DUI charge results in a court case trial, you will need to hire a DUI attorney in order to give yourself the best chance a the most favorable outcome. For cases with complex legal details, a DUI attorney can help you navigate this landscape. Ricky R. Nelson was selected as a 2019 and 2020 Super Lawyer and was recognized among the Top 40 Under 40 Criminal Trial Lawyers in Oregon. Nelson Law provides aggressive and affordable legal services for Central Oregonians facing DUI charges. Contact Nelson Law today for a free consultation.