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Trial Options

There are many reasons why people choose to have dui charges brought to trial as opposed to settled by agreement. Some people may understand the risks of an adverse verdict following trial. However, a position of principal prevents them in good conscience to admit to a dui offense they do not feel was committed.

On other occasions a client may wish to explore settlement options without risking the consequences and expense of trial. However, a settlement agreement that serves the best interests of the client cannot be agreed to. As such, in a cost benefit analysis the client is better served proceeding to trial where even in the event of an adverse verdict, an argued sentence before the presiding judge may prove more beneficial than to have accepted a sentencing proposal of a prosecutor by way of pre trial agreement.

The decision to take a case to trial is not one that should be considered lightly. The additional expense in attorney fees can be great. In the event of an adverse verdict, one may face criminal penalties far greater than those potentially available through pre trial settlement. At the conclusion of trial, the trial attorney returns to battle another day. The client on the other hand must be the one to face the real consequences of his or her decision in the event that a verdict does not go as planned.

Jury trials are the most commonly known mechanisms by which criminal charges are contested. A jury or assembly of people of one’s peers essentially are chosen by the respective lawyers in order to determine guilt or innocence. These types of trials are the most time consuming for all parties involved as choosing the jury, the filing of motions as to what such jury can and cannot be permitted to hear and preparation of opening and closing arguments are additional factors that must be attended to.

Picking a jury through what are called “peremptory challenges” can go a long way to determining a successful jury trial outcome. A trial lawyer in a dui case can only exclude a limited number of people from a jury either for “cause” meaning an obvious conflict of interest of some kind (ex.relation to one side or another) or most importantly, based upon the gut belief of the lawyer that a potential juror’s answers to questioning indicates one who would not be receptive to a client’s defense. Once these limited number of challenges are exhausted a client is left to the random draw of people left for jury consideration to decide the case outcome.

It is critical to take note of the fact that in the State of Indiana if charged with a misdemeanor dui, failure to demand a jury trial within certain time limits precludes the client from having one’s charges heard by jury. For minors under the age of eighteen, juvenile court proceedings are not permitted to have trials heard by jury in Indiana.

Various factors can influence the decision as to whether a court or “bench” trial as it is often called where a presiding judge decides guilt or innocence, or jury trial is best for a client. Where a client may have had a prior criminal history of some kind that may be precluded from a jury’s consideration but known to a presiding judge, a jury trial may be the best strategic alternative. Knowledge of the specific judge in question can be another essential part of such a decision. Should experience dictate that a certain judge may be favorable to potential defense available to a client, bench trial may be the best option. Knowledge of a community where a jury may be chosen from can also be highly important in making such a decision. Finally, when considering jury trial, experienced dui attorneys understand that even the most defensible cases can be at risk should a random panel of jury members not prove to be reflective of majority opinion as to how a case should have been decided.

As each case and circumstance is different, the decision as to whether court or jury trial is in the best interests of a client, and not the financial interests of a lawyer, is one that must be weighed most carefully.

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