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What Happens At My DUI Trial & How Can I Prepare?

If you have decided not to accept any plea deal from the prosecution or otherwise continue to maintain your innocence of the charge against you for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will have to go to trial. Unless you have pled “Guilty” or “No Contest” or the charges have been dismissed, you have a constitutional right to a trial by jury anytime that you have been charged with a crime that has the possibility of causing you to be put in jail for any period of time. Like most other criminal trials, your DUI trial will have a jury to decide whether to find you guilty or innocent. The jury will be selected through the “voir dire” process with the prosecuting attorney and your defense attorney selecting a jury, and your trial will begin. The prosecution has the responsibility of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to overcome your presumption of innocence. The prosecution will give its opening statement followed by your attorney, with these statements allowing both sides to introduce the case and frame the issues that must be decided by the jury in their favor. Then, the prosecution will begin presenting its case against you.

Your DUI trial will proceed much like any other criminal trial. During your trial, the prosecution will present all of its evidence against you that proves your guilt. The prosecution will likely use the testimony from the police officer who arrested you as well as the results of any chemical tests that showed the presence of alcohol or drugs in your system at the time of your arrest. The prosecution may also use any available videos, witness testimony, or other evidence that goes to show that you were driving under the influence when the police officer stopped you. Once the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence against you, it will rest its case and allow your defense attorney to begin.

Your attorney will generally begin by immediately making a motion to the judge for a directed verdict under Rule 29. This motion essentially argues that the evidence put on by the state’s prosecuting attorney is not enough to possibly result in a jury coming back with a “Guilty” verdict. If the judge agrees, your motion will be granted and the case against you dismissed. However, if the judge disagrees, your motion will be denied, and your attorney will have to proceed with presenting your defense. Usually, the only witness that your attorney will be able to use to testify to your innocence will be you. However, your defense attorney may not choose to have you testify because the risks may outweigh the benefits. If you testify in your trial, the prosecution will then be allowed to cross-examine you and ask any questions.

Depending on the facts of your case, this might hurt your case more than it could help. Your attorney will make this strategic decision while also tailoring the rest of your defense around calling into question the credibility of your arresting officer’s testimony, the accuracy of the tests used to show your intoxication, the accuracy of any field sobriety tests administered to you, or the reason the officer chose to pull you over for to begin with. Your attorney may attempt to reinterpret the prosecution’s evidence, discrediting their witnesses including the officer or bystanders, and even appealing to the emotions of the jury members to convince them to find you innocent. Lastly, your attorney may also attempt to establish alternative explanations for your positive test for alcohol, such as using mouthwash that contained alcohol, cough syrup, or having a gastrointestinal issue that caused the alcoholic vapors to skew your test results. After your lawyer rests your defense, both attorneys will present brief closing arguments summing up their cases and refocusing the jury’s attention on the primary strengths of each side’s case while showing how weak the other side’s case was. Then, the judge will give the jury instructions on the law and what issues and evidence they must consider in reaching their decision. After instructing the jury members, the judge will excuse the jury to deliberate and decide whether to find you “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” After the jury members deliberate and reach a verdict, they will come back into the courtroom and announce your verdict, if they have reached a unanimous verdict. If they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and the judge does not think they will be able to reach a unanimous verdict if given more time, a new trial may be scheduled, or the prosecution may choose to just let you go and avoid the costs of a second trial.

If you are found “Not Guilty” by the jury, all the charges against you will be gone, and you will be free to go. If you are found “Guilty,” the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing where the judge will sentence you to a certain amount of time in jail or prison as well as issue a fine, with the ranges of each punishment depending on the specific DUI charge you were convicted of and whether this was your first DUI conviction. During your sentencing hearing, your attorney may also be able to convince the judge to give you a more lenient sentence of lighter punishments as well as potential conditions such as limited or unlimited driving privileges and the waiving of jail time in exchange for attendance of alcohol or drug treatment programs. Especially in DUI cases, the judge will have a lot of discretion under Ohio law in deciding your penalties, which is why it is so important to hire an experienced and talented DUI attorney to advocate for you when the judge has the decision of sentencing you to a jail term ranging from three days to six months for your first offense in addition to the possible range of your driver’s license suspension.

If your DUI case has proceeded all the way to trial, under no circumstances should you try to represent yourself without the help of an attorney. It is absolutely imperative that you hire an experienced and qualified DUI defense attorney to represent you in your trial to provide you with your chance of a “Not Guilty” verdict to keep you out of jail and from having to pay the significant fines and negative consequences that accompany a DUI conviction, especially if this is not your first conviction. Your attorney’s knowledge of the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, Ohio’s DUI laws, the operation of chemical testing machines, proper administration of field sobriety tests, and other knowledge such as your attorney’s trial advocacy skills can often decide whether you will be found guilty or innocent by the jury. You should hire an attorney that is experienced with DUI/OVI cases in Ohio that can represent you at trial.