A DWI trial consists of several parts. When you decide you are going to take a case to trial, the first thing, of course, is to gather as much information as you can, usually by compelling the District Attorney to turn over various documents, videos, test reports which frequently contain material favorable to the defendant. The next stage is that there may be various motions made in a DWI case that can result in hearings being conducted before the actual trial.
For instance, there is often the question as to whether the arresting officer had any reason to stop you in the first place. If he does not have a proper basis for making the stop and then performing the tests, then no matter what the tests show, the results can be thrown out and leave the District Attorney with no case at all. You cannot simply stop a vehicle just because you do not like the way somebody looks. There must be a good reason for the initial stop. In many cases, I have found that we win by simply showing that there was no proper basis for making the stop that ultimately showed the client was intoxicated.
If you do not win at that point, then we move on to a regular trial just like you see on TV. This is where the District Attorney presents evidence from the police officer and the people that conducted the tests that are ultimately done at the station house and then we get to cross examine them and present our own witnesses to show that the person was not intoxicated.
If A Client Does Not Like A Plea Deal, Is That Reason Enough To Take A Case To Trial?
It is always up to the client whether or not to take a plea deal. Some clients will insist on going to trial even though it is a case that they are surely going to lose. They will never be content unless they have taken their shot, no matter how slim. It is not a good reason legally to take to trial, but emotionally they may want to, even though I would advise against it. An attorney can look at things far more objectively than the client, because he is not personally involved, but emotions do play a part and sometimes people insist on going to trial even though there is little or no chance of winning the case.
Do You Ever Recommend Pre-Trial Counseling Or Treatment For Your DWI Clients?
Pre-trial counseling can have impact on the outcome of a case if you are looking to get a disposition of the case. If the defendant takes the initiative and seeks out alcohol counseling or treatment, that can be extremely helpful in convincing a District Attorney to consent to a much more favorable disposition. As for the trial itself, it obviously plays no role and in fact you would not want the jury to know that you are in treatment for an alcohol addiction.
Are DWI Trials Typically Jury Trials Or Bench Trials??
The defendant has the choice of a bench or jury trial. In many non-DWI cases, a non-jury trial is advantageous. I find almost universally that in a DWI trial that, unless the issue involved is strictly a question of the law, you are better off with a jury than you are in front of a judge. The reason is twofold. When you are in front of a jury, if it is a misdemeanor, the DA has to convince all six of the jurors that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as opposed to just that one judge. Also, judges are used to dealing with police officers; they tend to favor police officer testimony whereas a normal juror has a much better idea of what it is like to have a drink without being intoxicated. It is much harder to convince a jury that somebody was intoxicated than it is to convince a judge. In almost every instance with DWI cases, I choose to have a jury trial.
Are The Penalties Associated With A DWI Conviction Typically Much Harsher Than What Was Offered In The Plea Deal?
Obviously there are penalties. If a defendant has been offered a plea to a lesser charge, chooses to go to trial on the original charge and is found guilty, then that lesser charge is off the table. That is the whole purpose of plea bargaining and trying to reach a conclusion before going to trial. If, in fact, the offer had simply been a plea to the original charge, the only advantage for those people is that there is an absolute certainty of no jail time with the plea bargain. But in truth, most people who are convicted of a first DWI after a trial do not usually get a jail sentence anyway. In most cases, if the offer is a plea to the charge, there is very little to lose other than the additional cost of going to trial.
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