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Maryland DUI Jury Trials

There are generally two types of DUI trials in Maryland, bench trials and jury trials. A bench trial is a trial that is heard by a Judge, who will listen to all of the evidence, listen to all of the witnesses and then make a decision about whether or not the State has met its burden of proof. In a jury trial, on the other hand, a Judge will only decide issues of law, while the jury will decide whether or not the facts support a conviction or don’t support a conviction, based on the case that the State has presented.

Each type of trial presents it’s own set of strengths and weaknesses for the defendant, depending on the specifics of the case. For this reason it is imperative to consult with a Maryland DUI lawyer before making a decision. To learn more about either type of trial and which may be better for you, call and schedule a consultation today.

The Pros and Cons of Jury Trials for DUI Cases

One of the benefits of a jury trial is that the State needs to convince 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt to convict somebody for the charges alleged. If they cannot, the case will be considered hung and the prosecution will have to try the case again if they intend to pursue the criminal charges.

One of the challenges of a jury trial is that DUIs are crimes that many people are familiar with. Some people think that they understand a great deal about them and the simple allegation without knowing everything about the case. It might be enough for people to bring in their own personal views and that could be negative for the defense.

Benefits of Having a Bench Trial Before a Jury Trial

In DUI cases, it can be wise to have a bench trial initially, so that any issues that need to be brought to light can be brought to light and a judge can make a decision about whether or not the State has met its burden on any or all of the charges that are alleged. The judge may then be able to throw out many of the charges, depending on the circumstances, and because of double jeopardy, they can never be brought back again. Once that trial is concluded, the defense has a right to then have a jury trial on any charges that have not been thrown out or are remaining.

Another advantage to having an initial bench trial is that many of the witnesses for the State will testify under oath thereby providing on record what it is that they recall from the incident itself. This means that when the defense then requests the trial by jury on the remaining charges, the State will also be stuck with the testimony of its witnesses from the bench trial and the witnesses will be subject to cross examination from their first version of events from the bench trial. Any inconsistencies in the witnesses’ testimony between the first and second trials can be used against them to bring about doubt in the minds of the jurors who are making the determination at the second hearing. For this reason it is usually wise to have the bench trial first and then the jury trial second.

Jury Selection Process

Usually a judge will bring in a number of prospective jurors who will be subject to voir dire, which is a preliminary examination of potential jurors by having them answer a number of questions that the defense and the prosecution have presented to the judge as questions for the jury.  These questions are designed to assist the prosecutor and the defense in picking a fair and impartial jury, one that is not biased towards one side more so than the other.
The jury is then selected based on whatever strategy the prosecution and defense want to employ.

What Types of Evidence May Make a Jury Trial More Difficult?

It is very difficult to win a case like a DUI in front of a jury if there is a Chemical Breath Test. Unless the test was refused, there was an insufficient sample, or it was ruled as inadmissible by a judge, the jury is going to find the test to be sufficient information to constitute a conviction in a DUI case.  With that said, if there is a refusal, there is an insufficient breath sample or the breath test has been invalidated, there are far more issues that can be argued to a jury than to a judge, such as why a person’s performance on a Field Sobriety Test or bad driving do not in and of themselves constitute enough for the prosecution to convict beyond a reasonable doubt on driving under the influence or driving while impaired charges.

Benefits of a Local Lawyer

It is important to work with a local lawyer not only in Maryland, but an attorney who is also very familiar with the specific jurisdiction because it is good for the attorney to have a familiarity with courtroom procedures in that particular jurisdiction, as well as the judges, the Clerks of the Court and the prosecutors. Only those kinds of relationships will assure an efficient resolution of a case in the Courtroom.