Several steps must be taken during a DUI trial to find a defendant guilty or not guilty of the alleged drunk driving criminal offense. Below, is a brief overview of the DUI trial process.
Selection of Bench or Jury Trial
If you are charged with a DUI in Michigan, you and the prosecutor have the opportunity to select a trial by judge or jury. A trial by judge is called a bench trial.
In a bench trial, the judge is both the finder of fact and ruler on matters of law and procedure. No jury is present during the bench trial and the judge renders the verdict.
In a jury trial, members of the community act as the finder of fact. Like the judge in a bench trial, the jury listens to the evidence that each side presents during the trial and renders a verdict based on the evidence presented.
The opening statement is limited to the discussion of facts about the case and the evidence that will be presented throughout the trial that proves such facts.
The prosecutor presents an opening statement first since the burden of proof rests on him/her to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged criminal offense. Your attorney gives an opening statement which challenges the credibility of the prosecutor’s statement. Opening statements are not argumentative. You ARE innocent until proven guilty.
After opening statements, testimonial evidence is presented to support the prosecutor’s case. There are two types of evidence that may be presented: direct or circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence can consist of an eyewitness account of the events that occurred or a confession. Circumstantial evidence suggests a fact by logical inference. It may consist of the description of a crime scene or physical evidence that suggests a crime was committed. Both forms of evidence can be presented by oral testimony, physical exhibits, images, videos, test results, and other qualified legal documents.
The attorneys may object to some of the evidence presented.
Direct and Cross-Examination
Evidence is presented during the direct and cross-examination of witnesses called by either side. Direct examination questions are open ended to elicit both direct and circumstantial evidence.
Cross-examination is leading questions limited to evidence raised during the direct examination.
Once testimony by both sides has concluded, the prosecutor and your attorney give closing statements. Closing statements illustrate what each side believes the evidence did or did not prove. Closing statements are argumentative and emphasize why the judge or jury should rule in the party’s favor.
The prosecutor presents a closing statement followed by your attorney’s closing statement.
After closing statements, the judge renders a verdict or reads jury instructions on the law and how to apply the evidence presented during the trial to reach a verdict.
The possible verdicts in drunk driving cases are “guilty,” or “not guilty.” Where a jury cannot decide on a verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial.
Contact Washtenaw County drunk driving attorney Stacey Washington for a case evaluation if you have been charged with a DUI.