CAN I GET A JURY TRIAL IF I’M CHARGED WITH A DUI?
August 30, 2021
Eligibility for a DUI jury trial depends on whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI in Nevada. If you face misdemeanor DUI charges, you’re not entitled to a trial by jury.
However, per a United States Supreme Court ruling (Blanton v. North Las Vegas) issued more than three decades ago, defendants charged with felony DUI’s are eligible for a jury trial.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced DUI attorney before deciding between a bench trial vs. a jury trial.
This article discusses:
- Eligibility for a DUI jury trial
- The differences between a bench trial and a Jury trial for DUI
- The chances of winning a jury trial, and
- How to win a DUI court case
Continue reading to learn more.
Only defendants who face felony charges are eligible for a DUI trial by jury. In Nevada, you can be charged with a felony DUI offense for:
- A Third-DUI charge within seven years
- DUI-related crashes that cause serious injury or death
Otherwise, misdemeanor DUI charges (regardless of the potential penalties) are not eligible for a jury trial for DUI.
Bench Trial vs. Trial By Jury
A bench trial is heard and decided by a judge. A DUI jury trial involves 12 people randomly selected from the community to render a decision and recommend penalties (in some cases). Whether a bench trial or a jury trial is best for your case depends on the circumstances.
Overall, both options have advantages and disadvantages. For example, a judge’s in-depth understanding of the law can be a benefit in certain cases. In others, it could increase the likelihood of conviction.
Additionally, a jury can be screened for bias. However, you never know how the details of your case will affect a juror’s decision-making process. In contrast, a judge is a bit more predictable.
If you face felony DUI charges, it’s your Constitutional right pursuant to the Sixth Amendment to demand a jury trial for DUI. However, it’s recommended that you consult with an attorney before making a final decision.
Generally, your chances of winning a jury trial for DUI depend on the circumstances of your case. Many defendants opt for a jury trial over a bench trial because:
- It can be easier to persuade one out twelve jurors than it is to persuade a judge
- If a mistrial is granted (in the case of a hanged jury), the prosecution is in a much weaker position and is more likely not to offer a fair plea bargain or stop prosecution efforts
- Juries tend to be more sympathetic
While there are many reasons to choose a jury trial for DUI felony-level offenses, it’s not always the best option. For example, a jury trial may not be in your best interest if your case involves:
- Emotionally charged elements (i.e., DUI crash causing a child’s death)
- Complex legal matters
- A prior criminal history that the jury may cast negative judgment upon
Are There Any Jury Trial Statistics?
There aren’t many readily available jury trial statistics. A major reason for the lack of data is that DUI cases rarely go to trial. The majority of DUI cases end in a plea agreement or case dismissal. Most defendants don’t want to risk the consequences of a conviction.
Currently, estimated conviction rates of crimes that go to trial surpass 95%. For that reason, it’s crucial to work with a DUI lawyer who is familiar with the prosecution and knows how to negotiate.
Nevada prosecutes DUI offenses to the fullest extent of the law. Winning a DUI case often requires a skilled DUI attorney and an ironclad defense strategy. A few of the most commonly used defenses that result in reduced or dismissed charges include:
- Unlawful police stop or other procedural errors committed by the police
- Inaccurate breathalyzer tests due to lack of calibration, faulty equipment, etc.
- Contaminated blood samples
- Invalid field sobriety tests
- High BAC levels were caused by mouthwash, diet, or other factors not related to alcohol consumption
The difference between a successful DUI defense strategy and an unsuccessful defense usually depends on the caliber of the DUI attorney you work with and the circumstances of your case.
Overall, DUI cases via a bench trial or jury trial present challenging issues and high-stake consequences if convicted. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s in your best interest to work with a DUI attorney you can trust.
Author: Tony Abbatangelo, Esq.
Anthony “Tony” L. Abbatangelo Esq. is a smart, compassionate attorney that knows how to get results and is no stranger to the courtroom. Tony and his team are ready to assist you with your criminal and DUI defense.