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Steps in the DC DUI Trial Process 

Following a DUI arrest, an individual is arraigned and given a trial date. There are many steps in the DC DUI trial process and it can seem overwhelming to navigate alone. If you have been charged with a DUI offense, consult an experienced DUI attorney that could work tirelessly to build your defense and guide you through this process.

What Are Opening Statements?

One of the first steps in the DC DUI trial process is the sharing of opening statements. Opening statements are outlines of what each side expects the evidence to show in the case. In a DUI case, the government may state that the police officer that pulled over the defendant is prepared to testify that the person exhibited the signs of intoxication or of being under the influence, certain field sobriety tests were performed, and produce the results of the testing. The prosecutor states that the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated.

If the defense chooses to make an opening statement, they might explain what they expect the evidence to show. The defense attorney may talk about whether the field sobriety tests were performed incorrectly or the person was under the influence, but they were under duress. For example, they were being robbed and forced to drive while under the influence. The defense may choose to outline their theory of defense, whether it is duress or the field sobriety tests and breath tests were performed incorrectly.

Prosecution’s Presentation of Their Case

The prosecutor and the government have the burden of proving someone guilty, so they present their case first. The defense does not have to present any evidence, ask any questions, or testify.

The prosecutor puts witnesses on the stand such as the police officer that stopped the client. There are also police officers who administered the breath test or other types of chemical testing who are called to testify. Sometimes there are civilian witnesses. For example, when there is an accident, the government can use civilian witnesses to talk about what they observed.

Defense’s Role While the Prosecution Presents Their Case

One of the steps in the DC DUI trial process, when the government presents their case, is the presentation of their witnesses. Each witness answers question on direct examination. When the government is finished, the defense can cross-examine each witness. They can ask a leading question or question that suggests the answer to each witness. That is a powerful tool to use when defending someone in a DUI case. The defense can ask re-direct questions to attempt to bring up further evidence or to explain answers the witness may have given on the cross-examination.

Presentation of the Defense

The defense may choose to put on evidence in a DUI case or they may not. There is no obligation to do so. After that, the government case is over then the defense decides whether to put on their evidence.

Evidence the Defense May Present

The evidence the defense uses depends on the defense. When the defense attorney claims that the standard field sobriety tests were done incorrectly, they may put a defense expert on the witness stand. The defense attorney can use the body camera video provided by the prosecutor, if that showed that field sobriety testing administered, to prove that the tests were administered incorrectly.

The defense might be that the breath test was performed and administered incorrectly because the client has a medical condition that should have been considered. The defense attorney may call an expert witness to discuss the medical condition and then another expert to talk about why the breath test was done incorrectly. The defense might rely on the client’s testimony. For example, the client is obese and there are restrictions on the type of field sobriety tests that can be performed when one is obese. Sometimes, the attorney has the client testify about what they waived at the time of the DUI investigation.

What the Prosecution Does During the Defense’s Arguments

When each defense witness testifies, they answer questions on direct examination and then the government can cross-examine those witnesses. At that point, the defense attorney can ask those witnesses questions after the cross-examination on re-direct examination if they choose to do so.

Closing Statements

A closing statement is one of the last steps in the DC DUI trial process. A closing statement is an opportunity for each side to make their argument about what the evidence means. It is not just a recitation of what each side expects the evidence to show. They can make inferences and arguments about the evidence. The closing statement is just an argument in which each side can put their spin on what the evidence shows. If an individual wants to know more about the trial process, they should consult a qualified DUI attorney that could answer their questions and help them navigate the process.

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