Atlanta DUI Criminal Trials
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious criminal charge in Georgia. Unlike traffic violations like speeding or running a stop sign, you cannot just pay the ticket and make a DUI go away. You will have to go before a judge in order to determine what will happen in your case, and if your case will go to trial.
Guilty or Not Guilty
Before you decide to plead guilty or not guilty, you should talk to an experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer. DUI cases can be complicated, relying on police testimony as well as chemical testing. A DUI lawyer who has dedicated themselves to representing clients charged with driving under the influence has the legal knowledge, scientific understanding, and courtroom experience to know how to defend their clients from DUI charges. They also understand what it is that the prosecutor has to prove, and how they build their cases.
If you decide to plead guilty, then you are admitting to the charges against you. Your case would not go to trial because you accepted the state's position that you were guilty. The judge will pass sentence which will include minimum jail time, fines, DUI school, community service, and suspension of your driver's license.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea-bargain. This may involve you pleading guilty to some lesser charge so that you won't have to face a heavier charge that may carry more penalties. Whether it is better to plead not guilty or accept a plea deal will depend on the fact of the case, and the likelihood that the prosecutor will be able to prove their case against you.
If you plead not guilty, your case will continue because you are contesting the charges of driving under the influence. Your case may be going to trial. For most DUI offenses, that carry misdemeanor charges, your guilt may be determined by a jury of 6 peers, or by the judge in a bench trial.
DUI cases are among the most commonly held court trials in Georgia. In part because the penalties are so severe, many people want to fight the charges against them. On the other side, because the public perception against drunk drivers is negative, prosecutors aggressively pursue DUI convictions. This means that prosecutors won't easily give up on a case, unless your DUI lawyer shows them that their case may fall apart after a trial. DUI trials also have a long backlog, and it may take a year before you ever go to trial.
Before the trial begins before a jury, your DUI lawyer should file pretrial motions, so that your case can be presented in the best light before the jurors. This includes motions to suppress evidence, such as chemical test results, or field sobriety test results. If successful, this could result in your getting your case thrown out, before the jury even hears the case, if the judge grants a motion to dismiss.
The jury selection process involves the judge, prosecutor and your DUI defense lawyer deciding who should be the people to hear your case. Each side may try and strike potential jurors who may appear to be partial to the defense or the prosecution. Once the jury is selected, the trial may begin.
The prosecutor has to prove all elements of the charge against you, beyond a reasonable doubt. They will briefly lay out their case, and your DUI lawyer will follow, stating what the defense thinks the facts in the case will show.
Since the burden of proof is on the state, the prosecutor is the first to present their case with evidence, and witnesses. This may include the arresting officer to give their version of what happened, video evidence, and chemical test results. This information is intended to prove their case. If the prosecutor cannot prove all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then the jury should find you not guilty.
After the prosecution addresses the jury, your DUI lawyer will be able to cross-examine the witnesses, in order to point out the flaws, inconsistencies, mistakes, and problems with the witnesses testimony. They may also counter the state's evidence with their own chemical experts, or other witnesses, to show that the prosecutor has not met their burden. The prosecutor can cross-examine the defense witnesses as well.
Each side will finish with closing arguments. First the prosecutor, then the DUI defense lawyer, then the prosecutor gets a last word in. The judge will read the charging instructions to the jury, and the jury will decide the case. The jury may deliberate for 10 minutes, or they may deliberate all day. When the jury is in agreement, a verdict of guilty or not guilty will be read on each criminal count.
Atlanta DUI Jury Trial Defense Attorney
The time it takes from getting arrested for a DUI through trial, and ultimately to a decision of not guilty can be a long and complex process. You need someone who exclusively handles DUI cases in Georgia to make sure your case gets the best result possible. With more than 20 years of Georgia DUI experience, I have successfully represented thousands of people charged with drunk driving. Call me today and we'll work to have your charges dismissed, reduced, or if it goes to trial, get a not guilty verdict.