Published on 5/19/2022, 3:26:00 PM
Considering a Jury Trial to fight a DUI in Maryland
If you've been charged with a first, second, third, or forth DUI in Maryland, you may be considering a jury trial. This article is designed to take you through our attorney's thought processes when considering a jury trial in a DUI case.
Most drunk driving cases in Maryland are scheduled for a bench trial first, with the option to take a case to a jury if a jury trial demand is filed.
This article will discuss some of the considerations a person might take if they are weighing taking a drunk driving case to a jury trial. This article should not supplant discussing your case with a qualified dui lawyer, as every case is different and there is no one-size-fits all DUI/DWI strategy.
Should my case go to trial at all?
This is the first question all Defendants should ask when considering a jury trial in any type of case. Often, this question cannot be answered until you've hired an attorney and they've had an opportunity to review the evidence in your case.
Evidence in Maryland DUI cases typically consist of the following:
A written police report
An accident report
Body worn camera
Hospital records and/or blood test results
How long does a DUI Trial take?
A DUI trial could take anywhere from a single day to several days, depending on the facts of the case. In District Court, most judge trials last a few hours at most. Bench trials are designed to be fast, and most judges ask defense counsel to waive opening arguments in bench trials, and argue suppression motions during the course of the bench trial.
There are rare exceptions where a District Court trial could take a full day; however, these cases are usually specially set on a trial docket.
A DUI jury trial often takes a full day or more, as a jury trial requires preliminary motions, picking a jury, opening statements, testimony, closing statements, and jury deliberation.
Depending on the case, a DUI jury trial could take several days or even a week, especially if it's a dui case involving death.
How Long does a DUI Jury trial last
A DUI jury trial should last at least a full day, if not more. All jury trials require voir dire, or jury selection, a process which involves questioning a pool of potential jurors about their biases to find unbiased and fair jurors.
Unlike a bench trial, Judges do not make factual findings in jury trials. Instead, the jurors are the fact finders and the Judge plays more of an evidentiary role, deciding what type of evidence each side may introduce to the jury.
What is the burden of proof?
Whether your case is a bench trial, or a jury trial, the burden of proof is the same. The State must prove the DUI or DWI charge "beyond a reasonable doubt" to the fact finder.
In ever driving under the influence case, the burden rests entirely with the State. It's possible that the Defendant and the Defense attorney who represents him to remain entirely silent through the trial and still earn a not guilty finding.
A DUI conviction would ruin my life, what do I do?
Jury trials are often considered when a dui conviction would ruin a persons life, or a dui conviction would cost a person their job. DUI Charges alone carry complications, like loss of a license, inability to drive pending Court, and the need for hiring an attorney.
A jury trial is often the best way to receive a fair trial, as bench trials are often heard by Judges who are less likely to find a doubt "reasonable" after hearing the same argument hundreds of times.
Additionally, juries are often captivated by trials, where bench trial judges are sick to death of hearing defense attorneys doubt the State's case.
Going to court for dui without a lawyer
Although nearly every Maryland DUI lawyer would advise against it, it is possible to have a dui jury trial without a lawyer. Having said that, it would be a poor idea to represent yourself on a DUI, even if it's your first
If you're wondering, should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?, the answer is always YES.
How to find a DUI Lawyer for your trial
Looking for a DUI trial lawyer isn't always easy. You may want to have a few free consultations with attorneys first to see if they've ever had a DUI trial in the past, and what types of results they may have.
Additionally, you might want to ask about their familiarity with the jurisdiction, and their experience with a certain Judge.
It's not easy to find the best criminal defense lawyer without having prior cases, but reading reviews, asking around in the community, and meeting with lawyers is a good first few steps.
Reasons to go to trial
There are countless different reasons to go to trial for a DUI. Some of the more common reasons are:
1. The State isn't offering an incentive to enter a plea
The most common reason to take a trial on your DUI is that the State isn't likely to offer much of an incentive to plea.
Most State's Attorneys, Maryland Prosecutors, do not make exceptional offers in DUI cases. On a second, third, or fourth DUI, they often ask for jail.
With jail time on the table, it's often worth it to take the case to a jury. Juries won't hear about a persons' prior DUI convictions, and will instead believe this is a first offense.
On a first dui, the State may "not oppose a probation before judgment. An experienced DUI lawyer will tell you that a probation before judgment is the likely result of a trial or a plea, which makes it worth it to take the case to trial.
2. The State's case is weak
Whether the police don't arrive until hours after the alleged driving, the case is an alleged dui skateboard, or there isn't any evidence of drinking, a weak case for the State is often a good reason to test the waters with a jury trial.
3. Can you beat a dui if you don't blow?
A refusal is often the best reason to consider a dui jury trial. These cases, commonly called "opinion cases", are some of the best cases for jury trials.
In Maryland a persons' refusal to submit to a breath test can be used against them; however, cases involving a breath test have their own challenges.
4. There are strong factual defenses in your case
Factual defenses are always decided by juries in jury trial cases. Often Judges overlook factual defenses like sleeping one off in your vehicle as a shelter. Juries are more open to consider defenses like these, and can be a reason to take a case to a jury.
How long can a DUI case stay open
Once you are charged, a DUI case can stay open for quite some time. For District Court, a person should expect a trial date to be issued within 2-3 months of receiving DUI charges. If a person takes a DUI to a jury trial, expect the process to take an additional 2-3 months. These are rough time estimates and are always jurisdiction dependant.