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Criminal Jury trials in California

DUI Jury Trials in the Central Valley

When facing DUI charges, your initial reaction me be that taking your case to a jury trial will be futile. However, there are many situations in which you could benefit from taking your case to a jury trial. In order to make that determination you should consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney who practices in Fresno, including the San Joaquin Valley, including Kings County, Madera County and Tulare County, in order to determine whether a trial by jury is in your best interest.

What are your trial rights after being arrested?

The U.S. Constitution makes it clear that each criminal defendant has the right to a speedy trial. The state of California has clarified this privilege. California guidelines indicate that a DUI defendant has the right to a court trial within 30 days of the date of their arraignment on the charges. However, if the DUI defendant is not in custody or on pretrial release, they shall be granted a court trial within 45 days of the date of their arraignment on the charges. These time frames appear to be arbitrary, but each may be waived by the DUI defendant or may be extended upon request.

Jury Trials in California

A trial on DUI charges features specific elements that can be found during trials on other types of criminal charges. Initially, there will be the submission of pretrial motions regarding evidence and procedures. The actual trial will start with the jury selection in order to identify 12 impartial jurors. During this process, attorneys for the defense and the prosecution will ask questions of potential jurors who have been summoned from the surrounding communities to hear evidence in the trial.

Jury Selection

The jury selection process is known as voir dire, from French. A legal dictionary defines it as: "to see to speak," the questioning of prospective jurors by a judge and attorneys in court. Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve. One of the unspoken purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get a feel for the personalities and likely views of the people on the jury panel.

Opening Statements in a California DUI Trial

At the start of the trial, both sides may offer opening statements to the jury panel. Opening statements are not designed to be argumentative, but the statements are offered in order to give the jury panel a sense of what evidence will be presented and the the identities of the witnesses who may be testifying during the trial. Defense attorneys usually use their opening statements to educate the jury panel regarding the burden of proof that must be met by the prosecutor in a DUI case. The standard regarding the burden of proof in a jury trial is known as beyond a reasonable doubt.

Presentation of Evidence

At the conclusion of opening statements, the prosecution will present evidence regarding the DUI charges in an effort to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys will engage in the cross examination of the prosecution's witnesses and experts when they testify. At the conclusion of the presentation by the prosecution, the defense attorney will have an opportunity to present evidence through testimony from witnesses.

Closing Arguments and Deliberations

During closing arguments to the jury panel the attorneys may review of all the evidence by arguing the significance or lack of credibility of that evidence. The jury panel will be excused in order to deliberate in private in order to determine the appropriate verdict based upon the evidence. The jury panel is required to reach a unanimous decision before returning its verdict. The court will reconvene in open session where the verdict will be read aloud. If the defendant is found guilty a sentencing hearing will be scheduled.

Contact an Attorney

If you are facing charges related to the offense DUI in the San Joaquin Valley, including Kings County, Madera County and Tulare County, do not think that your only choice is to plead guilty. Take a moment to contact the DUI trial attorneys at Wapner Jones, PC and schedule a consultation in order to discuss the facts of your case and be advised of your options.

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