Most driving under the influence cases in the state of California never go to trial. Most DUI cases are resolved with plea agreements. In some cases, a good DUI defense lawyer can find a reason to have the charge dismissed.
In this article, you’ll learn how plea agreements work in California DUI cases and why a driving under the influence charge can sometimes be tossed out of court entirely.
You’ll also learn which DUI cases go to trial, why jury selection is so critical in those trials, and what it will take to prevail if you are the person on trial for driving under the influence.
But first things first: The most important thing to remember about DUI is that if you face a DUI charge in Southern California, you must reach out – at once – to a qualified DUI attorney for the legal advice and representation that you are very much going to need.
HOW ARE CALIFORNIA DUI CASES RESOLVED?
Although driving under the influence is the most commonly charged crime in California, very few driving under the influence cases actually become trials heard by juries.
Most DUI cases in our state are resolved through one of these three methods:
1. A DUI attorney is able to have the charge dismissed because the suspect’s rights were violated during an investigation, interrogation, search, or arrest.
2. A defendant pleads guilty to the DUI charge.
3. A defendant accepts a plea bargain and pleads guilty to a lesser charge such as wet reckless, and in return for that guilty plea, the DUI charge is dropped.
WHICH DUI CASES GO TO TRIAL?
However, if you believe that you are entirely innocent of driving under the influence – or if your defense lawyer believes that the case against you is weak – your lawyer may recommend taking the case to court and asking a jury to acquit you.
Some suspects simply cannot have a driving under the influence conviction on their records.
If you are a doctor, lawyer, pilot, nurse, teacher, or if you hold a professional license in some other field, and you are not offered a plea deal, you must go to trial because a DUI conviction will mean a suspension or a revocation of your professional license.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A DUI DEFENSE LAWYER?
Whether or not your own driving under the influence case goes to trial, you must select a defense attorney who sometimes takes DUI cases to court.
If your defense lawyer never tries DUI cases, the prosecutor in your case will have no reason to offer you an acceptable plea bargain, because the prosecutor knows that no trial will be sought.
HOW ARE JURIES SELECTED FOR DUI TRIALS?
Effective jury selection is imperative in any DUI trial. Unreasonable restrictions on jury selection imposed by the trial court should be challenged.
Prospective jurors may be challenged either “peremptorily” or “for cause” on the basis of:
1. general disqualification
2. implied bias
3. actual bias
Prospective jurors in California DUI cases may be “generally” disqualified if they are not citizens, are not residents of the jurisdiction where they have been summoned, under 18 years old, or do not have sufficient knowledge of the English language to understand the proceedings.
HOW CAN YOUR LAWYER HAVE POTENTIAL JURORS DISQUALIFIED?
Challenges based on the “implied” bias of a juror may include that juror being within the fourth degree of consanguinity (a first cousin or more closely related) to any party or witness in the case or having within the last year a client-attorney relationship with an attorney involved in the case.
The third challenge for cause is for the “actual” bias of a juror, defined as “the existence of a state of mind on the part of the juror … which will prevent the juror from acting with entire impartiality, and without prejudice to the substantial rights of any party.”
Challenges for “cause” must be exhausted prior to “peremptory” challenges.
HOW DO “PEREMPTORY” CHALLENGES WORK?
California formerly gave each side in both felony and misdemeanor cases ten peremptory challenges – that is, the ability to eliminate ten potential jurors – but since 2017, each side in misdemeanor DUI trials are now allowed only six peremptory challenges.
HOW WILL A DUI DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?
Except for prohibitions on particular types of discrimination, the lawyers on both sides of a driving under the influence case may exercise a peremptory challenge for any reason or for no reason whatsoever.
A skilled defense attorney uses the jury selection process to eliminate potential jurors who may carry negative or impractical attitudes about criminal defendants and defense lawyers.
In DUI trials, your lawyer will attempt to eliminate jurors who have extremely strong views about drinking and driving or about the consumption of alcohol generally.
BEFORE YOU GO TO TRIAL FOR DUI, WHAT MUST YOU ASK YOURSELF?
Many DUI clients are ready and willing to dispute a driving under the influence charge in court, but before you tell your defense lawyer to prepare for a trial, ask yourself these questions:
1. What does your attorney recommend?
2. Is any plea bargain being offered?
3. A trial will cost more than a plea bargain. Can you afford it?
4. Do you and your attorney believe that you can prevail at a trial?
Many DUI defendants, especially first-time offenders, may be shocked by the aggressiveness of the prosecutor. Expect a prosecutor to say whatever it takes to make you look guilty to a jury. Prepare to have your ego bruised.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO AVOID DUI TROUBLE – ENTIRELY?
Of course, there’s one sure-fire way to avoid worrying about driving under the influence charges, juries, and trials. It’s the advice you’ve heard a thousand times before: Don’t Drink and Drive.
Admittedly, rides for hire are not inexpensive, but they cost far less than a ride to the jail, the hospital, or the morgue. Taxis, limos, and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are available across Southern California, twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year.
Even renting a room for the night or sleeping on a friend’s sofa is preferable to facing a DUI charge. Do whatever it takes to avoid drinking and driving.
HOW SOON WILL YOU NEED TO CONTACT A DUI ATTORNEY?
Still, if you are accused of DUI in Southern California, you will need the advice and services of a skilled attorney, and you’ll need to make the call at once.
Don’t let a DUI charge – or a conviction for driving under the influence – ruin your future. Get the legal help you need as quickly as you need it. That is your right.