Arizona DUI: Step by Step Guide to CJ
In previous articles, we have taken you through the various stages of your court case, from the stop and arrest through the arraignment and the pretrial hearing. We discussed the possibility of an evidentiary hearing and its value to your case, which brings us to the trial.
STEP 6 - The Trial
The trial is the largest part of the criminal case. It will most likely end with a determination of guilt or acquittal. Most DUI cases are tried before a jury, but in some instances a client may wish to try his case before a judge. This is called a bench trial. Bench trials are rare, but for tactical reasons your attorney may suggest that as the route for your case. If the prosecutor agrees, then the judge will decide your guilt or innocence.
In the United States, a defendant is PRESUMED innocent, until proven guilty. This means that until the end of your trial, you are innocent. It is the prosecutor's job to prove that you are guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt." The 'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" standard will be discussed in separate articles, but for the purposes of this guide, I will point out that it is the highest level of proof that exists in the legal system. You, as the client, are not required to put on even one piece of evidence or testimony. The burden of proving the case lies solely with the prosecution. Here is the path your trial will take:
Motions in Limine are filed with the court and discussed between the parties and the judge before the jury is even brought into the court room. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod will carefully analyze your case and all of the evidence against you to determine whether any of it should be excluded or kept away from the jury. If there is anything questionable, your attorney will ask the judge to make the prosecutor omit it from the evidence.
Selecting the Jury requires serious attention to detail and a knowledge of psychology and body language, along with the ability to present oneself effectively to strangers. Your attorney will generally ask you to observe each prospective juror (how they answer questions and what they say) and to take notes on your thoughts. At the end of the questioning phase (also known as voir dire), your attorney will exchange strikes with the prosecutor until the correct number of jurors is reached. Each side will strike prospective jurors based on the answers to their questions, and whatever clues can be gathered from how they conduct themselves.
Opening Statements are used by each side to explain to the jury what they believe the facts will show. It's a brief overview of the trial; what the testimony will be, who they will hear from, etc. Arguing about the evidence and what it means is not allowed. This is a more matter of fact statement.
The State's Case
The State will put on the first witnesses. The prosecutor will ask questions on direct examination and your attorney will ask questions on cross examination. In a typical DUI case the prosecutor may put several police officers on the witness stand and perhaps an expert witness. The questioning will go back and forth, through each witness until the prosecutor has put all of his witnesses on the stand.
The Defense Case
With the presumption of innocence, you are not required to put on any evidence. You cannot be required to prove your innocence. In many cases however, your attorney will suggest one or more witnesses, perhaps an expert witness, or even that you testify. While in the defense case, your attorney will conduct direct examination, while the prosecutor cross examines your witnesses.
As the name implies, this is the point in the trial where the attorneys argue about what all of the evidence meant and whether it proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. The prosecutor goes first, your attorney next and then the prosecutor has a rebuttal argument. The prosecutor gets a second argument because the State has the burden of proof in all criminal cases.
After the closing arguments, the judge will discuss the law with the jurors, how they are supposed to deliberate and how they will return a verdict. The jury members will then be escorted to a deliberation room and there will review the evidence and decide your case. In some instances they may have questions, which they will communicate to the judge who will bring in both sides to determine how to answer, or even whether to answer them.
Once they have reached a decision, the jury members will be brought back into the courtroom to read the verdict. If you are acquitted, or found not guilty, this will be the end of your case. If you are found guilty you may be sentenced immediately following the trial, or a later hearing may be set for sentencing.
By this time you should have been advised of the range of possible sentences you may be facing. Penalties for DUIs in Arizona can be found on this site and you may ask your attorney.
The Law Office of Craig W. Penrod has been involved in criminal and DUI defense for more than 25 years. Craig is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, is AV® rated, the highest rating by Martindale Hubbell®, is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®, and has been selected for inclusion in Southwest Super Lawyers™ Editions 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Contact the lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod for a free initial legal consultation if you find yourself facing criminal or DUI charges.