How Often Do DUI Cases Actually Go To Trial?

For DUI attorneys, quite a few cases end up going to trial. The reason that happens is because the DUI attorneys, in my opinion, are trained a bit more, there is a specific training that they receive that gives them the ability to look deeper and closer at DUIs and the evidence that is going to be used by the prosecution, mainly the chemical evidence, the breath test, the blood test or the urine test. So quite frequently, they go to trial.

Do Attorneys That Do Not Specialize In DUI Defense Avoid Going To Trial?

Yes. Quite a few attorneys might avoid going to trial on DUIs. When I was learning and developing my practice, I did see a lot of attorneys that if the prosecution held up a blood test, someone’s blood analysis from the lab, they would think that there was no defense, it was done. The jury or judge is surely to convict because they have a piece of paper from the lab and an expert that says they were over the limit. I look at that now and through my training and experience, I love blood test cases, because there is so much more to them, they are so much more difficult for the prosecution and there are so many more areas where the law enforcement and the lab analyst can make a mistake resulting in an acquittal for the client.

How Do You Determine Whether A DUI Case Is Feasible For Trial Or Not?

Initially my analysis is how strong is the evidence, what is the prosecution going to be using, the police officer involved; some officers are really good at testifying or really thorough while others are not and they get a little sloppy on occasion. But first of all, what is going to be ultimately the best for the client. Each jurisdiction, each city, each county here in Utah, the prosecutor’s office has a different philosophy whether it is a first offense, a second offense or a felony, and some prosecutors, if it gets to be above a certain limit, they will not work with you at all. If it is a first offense, it does not matter how high the test was, they will offer you a reduced charge. What we are looking at is which jurisdiction we are in, what is going to be best for the client, and the evidence that the prosecution intends to use.

I was in a tough spot with one of my clients just the other day. We had a really good case to litigate; we had great issues that we could have used. We could have said that there was an illegal search probably another car involved and the warrant to get the blood might not have been valid. Once they got the blood, the officers did not label it right and store it correctly and some grey things that we had to probably win the case. However, she had to balance that out with if we lost, not only would she have the conviction and some other charges because, it was not just a DUI in most cases, but sometimes there are additional charges for being an alcohol restricted driver, finding an open container in the car or something like that. So she had additional charges along with the DUI.

We won the license hearings at the Drivers’ License Division. So she got to keep her license, and she had to balance this offer that the prosecution was making to settle the case. It was a great offer, and even though we still had some good strong defenses and arguments, if she had gone to trial and lost, that conviction would then be reported to Driver’s License Division and she would have lost her license for two years. She had to risk and weigh all this out. There is a pretty good offer here, but I am going to have to pay some fines and take a class. It is hard for people to juggle their schedules like driving kids to school, get to work back and forth; everything for two years without a driver’s license is scary. So those are some of the decisions we run into with some cases.

What If Clients Are Not Satisfied With Their Offer And Want To Go To Trial?

Ultimately the decision whether to go to trial or not is the client’s and I always tell them that I am glad to go to trial for them and present the evidence and put on the best defense possible. But I always make sure that they understand all the risks that they are facing and make sure that I have given them enough information about the way the case will precede and the likely outcome, my opinion based on the evidence and my opinion. What will happen is if they take the deal or if they go to trial, the difference between those choices, so I always try and give them as much information as I can. To answer the question, no; to go to trial because you do not like the offer, that is not a good reason. You have to look at the evidence and determine how strong or weak the state’s case is. That is what you need, make your decision to go to trial or not.

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