Elmer H. Young - Georgia DUI Attorney

Free Strategy Session Augusta and Macon: 706-284-4380 Savannah, Statesboro and Effingham: 912-400-0955

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There are so many variables to a criminal trial that no one I know could do justice in a short script. I won't try either, except to say that most folks seem to think they understand that part of the process the best. I suppose that comes from watching movies and television. One is real, the other is entertainment (hopefully)! I will provide an outline and perhaps a line or two by way of description and leave the rest to the conference with the lawyer.

First, there may be a jury trial or a "bench trial". Obviously the jury trial involves the legal process of empanelling and selecting of a group of jurors to hear facts and render a verdict on the guilt, or lack of guilt, of the defendant to criminal charges. In Georgia, as in most other states, DUI is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor or lesser crimes are tried before a jury of only six, rather than 12 persons. Occasionally an alternate juror will also be selected. The selection process of these jurors involves the introduction of the lawyers, the defendant and perhaps some references to important or significant witnesses that may be involved in the case. A question and answer session occurs called, voir dire, literally "to speak the truth", to the questions that are posed by lawyers for both the state and the defense and the judge as well, in order to find those certain jurors who are the most qualified and most likely, in the lawyers opinion, to render a fair and unbiased verdict. In favor of their side, of course!

A bench trial does not involve the selection of a jury. The parties agree that the judge presiding in the case is impartial enough to hear the facts presented by both sides and render a fair verdict. It is possible that your lawyer may suggest such a trial because the experience of the lawyer has been favorable for other clients before this judge under similar fact situations. It is always a real compliment to a judge for an aggressive defense to be trusted to a judge. Being the trier of both the fact and the law, these sorts of trials are more streamlined and move along much faster, especially where numerous motions are expected. Because the judge is deemed "qualified" by virtue of office, no voir dire is needed, as in a jury trial.

After the jury is selected, the judge will provide each lawyer time to make an opening statement. They may outline facts they expect to be established. This evidence is how each party expects to prove or throw doubt upon some element of the alleged crime. The judge will tell the jury that what they hear from these lawyers is not evidence. Either party may waive this opening statement or the defendant may elect to postpone his statement until the conclusion of the state's evidence. This may be a matter to discuss with your lawyer.

After the opening statements, the prosecutor will proceed to present the state's case against the defendant. This will be done through witnesses and the introduction of documents considered important in proving the defendant's guilt. In a typical case these witnesses would include: the arresting officer, perhaps a back-up officer, sometimes an untrained traffic officer will call for a DUI task-force officer to assist in establishing the impairment level of the driver.

Other witnesses commonly subpoenaed to trial for the state would include a crime lab technician, arresting officers in previous DUI cases, where similar transaction evidence of prior DUI convictions are going to be offered as evidence. One by one the state will call these witnesses and the prosecution will direct questions intended to help convict the accused driver of DUI and the other charges in the case.

After the state has finished with each witness, the defense lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness and challenge, test and explore the truthfulness, memory, skill, training, honesty and many other aspects of the testimony of these witnesses looking for opportunities to undermine and cast doubt on the testimony of the witness.

When that is completed, the judge will usually allow the state another opportunity to rehabilitate the witness, followed by any follow-up questions by the defense attorney. After all the witness for the state has testified and all the documents and other evidence has been offered and admitted, the state will rest its case.

At this time, the defense's case will be offered to the jury. By the same process of calling witnesses, introducing documents or other evidence and having it all admitted by the judge, the defendant will attempt to discredit the state's case. It may appear that the defendant is attempting to prove his innocence, but usually, the defense will fall very short of that and is willing to simply show a reasonable doubt exists, so as to have a verdict in his favor.

The number of witnesses may be few in number and may or may not include the defendant driver as a witness for the defense. Again, this is something to discuss with your lawyer prior to trial. Other witnesses may include passengers in the vehicle being driven, guests, family members or friends who had an opportunity to observe the behavior and demeanor of the driver prior to being arrested or immediately after the stop or release from jail after the arrest. The use of "expert witnesses" is frequent where issues are involved which are somewhat beyond the common understanding of most jurors.

After the defense attorney has finished questioning the witnesses called for the driver, the state then has its turn at cross-examining these witnesses, as earlier described above. After all the witnesses are called, the defense will the rest its case.

What will follow next varies widely with the facts in each case, but may include, motions by the defense to dismiss the case, because some element of the crime has not been proven, a jury charge conference, where the judge goes over the law expected to be charged to the jury. Both the state and the defendant have a great interest in each of these matters. This will be followed by the jury charge. This is a session where the bailiffs stand in front of doors that are more closely guarded and silence falls upon the courtroom as the judge reads from the bench the law that he instructs the jury to apply to the facts that they have just heard in the case. After that instruction, the judge will ask the jury to retire to the jury room and when the evidence is brought to them from the courtroom they are to begin their jury deliberations.

Completing the deliberations, the jury will notify the judge that a verdict has been reached and all the parties and lawyers will be summoned back into the courtroom where the verdict will be published by the clerk. The clerk will then slowly and deliberately read that the jury has unanimously found the defendant "not guilty!!"