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Three Ways to Resolve a DUI Case in Arizona (Part 2 of 3- DUI Trials)

Many times, Arizona DUI cases are resolved through plea agreements (which were discussed in part one of this three part series on the ways that Arizona DUI cases are typically resolved (see last blog post)). However, on the occasions where a defendant does not want to accept the plea agreement offered by the prosecutor, a trial will likely take place.

An Arizona DUI trial generally takes place in front of a jury, although it is possible to have a trial in front of a judge alone, which is called a "bench trial." Both are discussed in turn below.

Jury Trials in Arizona DUI Cases

The first step in a jury trial is selecting a jury. This involves the court bringing in a panel of jurors to choose from, and, after asking questions, the attorneys for the defendant and the State select seven jurors, six whom will actually decide the case and one alternate. The alternate juror will not be known until the trial is complete and deliberations are ready to start.

How the DUI Jury Trial Proceeds

Once a jury is selected and sworn in, both sides present opening statements. The State goes first, then the defendant's attorney presents his or her opening.

After this, the State then puts on its case by calling its witnesses. The State's witnesses generally include all the police officers involved in the case, as well as any expert witnesses such as the criminalist (the person who tested the blood alcohol level) in a blood case, or the quality assurance in a breath case. Also, if there are any civilian witnesses for the State, then they will also be called to testify at that time. In each instance, the prosecutor asks questions to the witness (which is called a "direct examination"), and then the defendant's attorney asks his or her questions to the State's witness (which is called a "cross examination"). At that point, the State has one more chance to ask its own witness another round of questioning, if necessary (and this is called "re-direct"). Once the State has put on all of its witnesses, it is done with its case.

The defense then puts on their case by calling their witnesses to the stand. Possible defense witnesses include the defendant, if he or she is going to testify, an expert witness to rebut the State's expert witness, and then any additional witnesses the defendant's attorney may call. For the defense's case, the defense attorney gets to ask the direct questions to the witnesses, then the State gets to cross-examine the defense witnesses, and then the defense attorney gets ask re-direct questioning if necessary.

After this, both sides present their closing arguments. The State goes first, then the defense, and the State can then also do a rebuttal closing if they choose, essentially getting in the last word.

At that point, the case goes to the jury. The alternate juror is thus selected, and the jury will deliberate on the DUI charges (and any other charges pending) after they receive instructions from the Judge.

Typically the jury elects a foreman during deliberations. In an Arizona DUI case, the burden of proof is on the State, and the burden provides that the State must prove each element of the DUI charge(s) "beyond a reasonable doubt". Thus, during deliberations, the jury must decide if the State has proved its case against the DUI defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.

Once the jury reaches a verdict, they will advise the Court, and the verdict for each charge is announced, which will be either "guilty" or "not guilty" on each charge (or, in very rare circumstances, if the jury cannot reach a verdict, a mistrial is declared). The entire process for an Arizona DUI trial typically takes one to two days, depending on the Court.

DUI Bench Trials in Arizona

As mentioned above, a DUI trial can also take place in front of a judge, instead of a jury. This is called a "bench trial." Currently, a bench trial will occur in an Arizona DUI case only when the defendant actively waives his or her right to a jury trial (although this may change in certain Arizona DUI cases in the future, so stay tuned to the blog for information on changes to the Arizona laws).

A bench trial in a DUI case in Arizona proceeds in the same manner as a jury trial, except for the fact that no jury will be picked or sworn in, and it will be the Judge who decides the verdict at the end of the case.

Bench trials are typically less common than jury trials in Arizona DUI cases, and an experienced DUI attorney will be able to advise a defendant if a bench trial could be beneficial in his or her case.

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