Will I Have To Go To Trial?

Most criminal cases do not go to trial. The same is true of DUI cases. While the likelihood of a DUI case going to trial is certainly affected by how strong or weak the prosecutor’s case is, probably the single most important factor is how skilled the defense lawyer is in challenging the government’s case before trial through a process called pretrial litigation.

Pretrial litigation involves raising legal challenges to the prosecutor’s evidence and the validity of the procedures used to secure that evidence. The issues to be raised may include questions of the legality of the initial stop of the vehicle, whether there was probable cause to make an arrest, whether the defendant was fully and properly advised of all of his or her rights, whether the breath or blood test was properly administered, and a number of other issues that may arise in particular cases.

The goal of raising pretrial litigation is to limit or exclude damaging evidence that may have been improperly obtained by the police officer so that the prosecutor becomes willing to engage in plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is a process whereby the prosecutor agrees to allow a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge, one that does not involve all of the severe consequences resulting from a drunk driving conviction. An advantageous plea bargain could be one that results in avoiding a jail sentence, or license suspension, or both.

Factors that affect plea bargaining include the skill or reputation of the defense lawyer, the official policies of a prosecutor’s office, the extent of overcrowding in the individual court, the record of the accused, and the results of an alcohol evaluation.

When a prosecutor offers an amendment to a reduced charge, the defense must consider whether this disposition serves the important goals of the client which have guided the case from day one. In some cases a plea bargain will be rejected by the defense because the benefits of the reduced plea are not significant enough to outweigh the risks of a conviction at trial. Ultimately, whether a case goes to trial or not is determined by a prosecutor’s frank assessment of his or her chances of winning the case at trial, factoring in the facts of the case as well as the opposition, and the willingness of the defense lawyer to try the case if a plea bargain is not forthcoming.

A competent DUI defense attorney will insure that every opportunity has been maximized in an effort to resolve the case without trial, seeking only the resolution that satisfies the goals you have established regarding the case. At the same time, an attorney should prepare your case for trial from day one so that your chances of prevailing, should trial be necessary, are maximized. The thought of going to trial is terrifying to most people who have never been in a courtroom before as a defendant charged with a crime. The best DUI defense attorneys will explain the process in detail and will fully prepare you for all phases of trial so that the stress caused by the unknown is minimized if your case actually does proceed to trial.