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.

When Are You Entitled To A Jury Trial For A DUI?

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:

  1. A Third-DUI charge within seven years
  2. 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.

What Are The Chances Of Winning A DUI Jury Trial?

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
Can you get a trial by jury if charged with a DUI?

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.

How To Win A DUI Court Case

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:

Pulled over the by police unlawfully
  • 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.

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