Step 7: The DUI Trial in Utah

 When we take your case to trial, we always request a jury.  In Utah, you have the option to have a bench trial (with only a judge) or a jury trial.  Utah law allows four jurors for a class B misdemeanor DUI offense.  If the DUI is a Class A misdemeanor, Utah law allows six jurors.  If the DUI is a felony DUI because there has been two prior DUI convictions or offenses within a ten year period, then Utah law allows eight jurors to hear the case.

Voir Dire:  The process of selecting the jury is called Voir Dire.  It means “speak the truth.”  This is a process where they bring in a jury pool of about 16 to 20 jurors for your average DUI case.  Most of the time, the judge conducts the voir dire process meaning the judge will question the jury panel about their fitness to hear the DUI case.  People can be excused from the panel for many different reasons.  One of the main reasons is because they have very strong feelings about DUI because they have had some involvement with a DUI situation like being in a car accident.  Once the people are removed for cause, then the jury is selected by a process where the prosecution will strike three jurors and the defense will strike three jurors.  The remaining four people will be the jury to hear the case.

Jury Instructions:  After the voir dire process and the jury is selected, the judge will give the jury instructions on how to judge the case.  These are preliminary instructions.  The judge will usually read the formal charge at this time.

Opening Statements:  Both the Prosecution and Defense is allowed to give an opening statement to tell the jury their side of what the evidence will show through out the trial.  The Defense has the option to reserve their opening statement until the Prosecution is finished with its case.

Evidence:  Next the prosecution will call its witnesses to testify, present photographs, chemical test evidence, and any other relevant evidence.  The Defense has right to cross examine any of the witnesses that testify.  Once the prosecution is finished, the Defense then has the option to put on evidence.  In reality, many times, the Defense will rest without putting on evidence and argue that the prosecution has not met the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the client is guilty.  Once the Defense is finished, the prosecution has the option to call rebuttal witness and the Defense can then call rebuttal witnesses.

Closing Arguments:  When all of the evidence has been presented to the jury by both sides, the judge will then give closing jury instructions.  The prosecution will give a closing argument first.  It is reasoned that because the burden is on the prosecution to prove the case, the prosecution also gets to do another argument after the Defense.  So, the prosecution gives a closing statement, then the Defense gives a closing statement, and then the prosecution gives a final rebuttal statement.

Jury Deliberations and Verdict:  After the closing arguments, the jury is taken to a room to deliberate and to come up with a unanimous decision about the guilt or innocence of the charge.  There is no time limit on the jury.  I have had juries come back in 20 minutes and others come back 8 hours later.  The verdict has to be unanimous.

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