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Steps of the DC DUI Trial Process

The steps of the DC DUI trial process is multi-layered. In almost every DUI case, the prosecutor eventually makes some plea offer. With a few particularly egregious DUI cases, the prosecutors elect not to make a deal because there is no constitutional requirement to do so. In every other case except for those rare exceptions, the prosecutors make a plea offer. Get in touch with an experienced attorney for more information.

First Offense DUIs

When someone has a first offense, there may be a plea offer with no jail or a plea offer for something lesser than a DUI such as diversion. A person is under no obligation to accept a plea offer, even if their attorney negotiates the best possible plea offer the prosecutors would give. The person is the sole decider as to whether they want to accept any kind of ultimate disposition other than setting the case for trial. The person has the right to go to trial to make the government prove their case against them.

Plea Deals

Steps of a DC DUI trial process can include taking a plea deal. There are many cases where taking a plea deal is the person’s choice and understandably so. The person was innocent, not guilty of all of the charges alleged against them, or the plea offer is of no benefit to them. Typically, a plea offer is made in an attempt to have a person accept responsibility and not force the government to bring all their witnesses and evidence forward to prove the case. There may be an exchange for some leniency, whether it is a reduction in the charge, the number of charges, or the penalty associated with the charge.

Legal Limits

Sometimes with DUIs, a person’s breath, blood, or urine score is at a level well above the legal limit but still underneath the cut-off for a statutory mandatory minimum jail sentence for breath or blood. It is a 0.20, whereas the legal limit is 0.08. When a person is in the gray area of 0.16, 0.17, 0.18, there is no mandatory jail sentence. A prosecutor may not be inclined to offer a plea offer to a DUI because it is over the twice legal limit. In those cases, there is no benefit to a person to accept the plea offer ahead of them. Even in a worst-case scenario, if they go to trial and lose, they get the same results. That is why a case might go to trial.

Parole or Probation

Another example how a plea deal can hurt a person is when an individual is on parole or probation and they accept any kind of guilty plea. A guilty plea can result in a violation of their parole or probation. The person can end up in jail or prison on their initial case even if they have a lenient sentence on the new case.

DC DUI Trial Procedure

The first step in the DC DUI trial process is the opening statement. When a trial begins, the opening statements are given. Opening statements are most useful in a situation where there is a jury. A judge is not necessarily swayed by an opening statement because they are trained in what they hear and how they view evidence. They have a familiarity with the attorneys.

Right to a Jury

For a first offense DUI in the District, an individual does not have a right to a jury because their maximum penalty is 180 days in jail. In the District, a person only has a right to a jury when the maximum penalty is more than six months. For purposes of the statute, a person charged with a first offense DUI does not get a jury trial.

However, if an individual has a DUI conviction from within the last 15 years that the government can prove, the person faces mandatory jail time of at least 10 days if they are convicted. Most importantly for purposes of a jury trial, the maximum penalty increases from 180 days and is one year. That now invokes the right to a jury.

In a jury trial, opening statements are the defense attorney’s first opportunity to build a rapport with the jury to give them a favorable impression of the defense attorney and the person charged. It is a vital first step in the DC DUI trial process. An opening statement is the best way to frame the case from the perspective of the person charged. The prosecutor or the defense explains to the jury what they expect the facts of the case to be.

First Offense Opening Statement

In a first offense case with a judge, often times, the defense does not give an opening statement because they do not need to build any kind of rapport with the judge. They are acquainted with the judge and realize that the judge knows how to view the evidence and understands their role at trial. Sometimes, rather than showing their hand as to what they expect the facts are, they save their opening statement for when they present the defense side of testimony.

Prosecutors and Defense

In a DUI case, as in all criminal cases, the prosecutors present their opening statements first. The defense then presents an opening statement if they choose to do so. The case begins officially with evidence when the prosecutor calls their first witness. The government has the burden of proof in any criminal case and the government presents their case first.

The defense is not required to present their case. The defense has the right to attack the government’s case as the government present its case, cross-examine their witnesses, make arguments, make objections, and raise motions. The prosecutor has the duty to present their case sufficiently enough to prove the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is their burden. For more information on the trial process of a DC DUI case, contact a professional DUI attorney today.

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