What Happens At A DUI Trial?
What Happens At A DUI trial? Who Testifies, And What Evidence Is Presented?
The prosecutor always has to go first. They have the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will let the people in. They will ask if either of those parties got opening statements and the prosecution will start calling their witnesses. They will usually put on the police officer, there might be a second officer or a breathalyzer operator, or might be a video that needs to be watched and then they will usually rest. You then have the option of either putting on a defense or not. Sometimes, there is a different standard for the burden of proof at the close of the state’s case and at the close of all the evidence.
Once the state puts on their case, you can make a motion to say, “Okay. I’d like to direct its finding; I don’t think the state met their burden at this point.” However, the burden of the state at the point where they rest, before the defense even says anything, is that the judge must look at the facts in light of the most favorable inferences towards the prosecution to see if they have established enough that the judge could reasonably find the person guilty. Therefore, they are taking all the inferences towards the state.
After that, the defense might say, “Okay, that’s fine, Judge. Now, we decide we are not putting the defendant on, we do not have any evidence to present.” In that case the judge has got to make a determination after close of all the evidence. Looking at the most favorable to state, he is looking at it with no inferences other than his experience and his common sense and everything else in applying the law. Then he is going to make a determination.
There have been cases where the judges say, “Well, at this point in the case, I have to make the reasonable inferences,” and the attorney will then say, “Judge, we have no defense other than that’s already there.” You have won the case because you could tell the judge whose kind of hanging on, “Well, but for this, I have to give the state all the reasonable inferences at this point in their favor.” As soon as he does not have that inference, it is a normal that I find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and without those inferences. You cannot draw those inferences by themselves and you find the person not guilty.
Most judges and juries want to hear the defendant get up and say that they were not drunk, they were either tired, worked two shifts in a row, worked in a dusty environment. They could say yes, it was late at night but my eyes are bloodshot almost every hour of my life. They are like permanently bloodshot, not horribly, but enough that an officer can look and say, “Hey, your eyes are red,” “Yes, they’re red every day; I don’t sleep much at night. I’ve got dry eyes but that doesn’t mean I’m drunk.”
That is one of the things where the judge might say, “Hey, the only inference for the state right now is he’s got bloodshot eyes because he was impaired.” However, if the defendant gets up and explains, “I’d been up two days in a row, I’ve got a little 3 year old at home that keeps me up, I’ve got a cold,” then those inferences from the state aren’t there anymore. Then you’ve got a reasonable reason that could be an alternative and the judge is going to say, “Hey, I can’t tell if that redness was from being impaired or if that redness was from working in a dusty environment and not sleeping. Well, that night before, he had a cold,” so there is a lot of things like that where the judge has got to look at both before and after those reasonable inferences.
Once There Is a Verdict That Says You’re Convicted, Is the Original Plea Offer Typically Taken off the Table?
Yes of course. Why would they give you the benefit of not going to trial if you just made them go to trial? A lot of times, the prosecutors will play that game with you on the motion of quash the arrest, suppress the evidence to try and get the case pretty much dismissed before a trial actually starts. They are going to say, “Look, you can run your motion to suppress.” There are prosecutors that say that to attorneys forever, “You run your motion to suppress, you win well good for you. You lose; we’re not giving you any offers. It is going to be a straight plea or trial and you can fall on the mercy of the court and see how you like that.” They play that card all the time.
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