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Trials in Michigan DUI cases are very rare. There are several reasons why this is true. The first reason is that probably 98% of individuals arrested for drunk driving or related charges are actually guilty of some crime. It might not be the crime they are charged with, but most prosecutors across the state will only authorize charges that they think they can prove. The second reason is that many attorneys are simply not trial attorneys and will do anything possible to settle their cases before trial.
Billing Structures Can Affect Going to Trial
Another factor in this could be that fact that many attorneys will charge a fixed fee or use hourly billing and charge an additional trial fee. This can create an economic barrier to the client going to trial and many will settle rather than pay this fee, which can be significant. Our firm will only charge a fixed fee that includes either a bench or jury trial so our clients have no barrier to exercising their rights to a trial.
Bench Trial or Jury Trial?
There are two options for your drunk driving trial:
- Bench Trial Option – You can decide to waive your right to a jury trial and have the matter heard by the trial judge. The prosecuting attorney must also agree to this so it is not a guaranteed outcome. This has to be carefully decided and will turn on who the trial judge is, their background with drunk driving cases, and the evidence to be heard. It takes a skilled trial attorney to really decide whether a case is better heard by a judge or by a jury.
- Jury Trial Option – If the case proceeds to a jury trial, the first thing that needs to be taken into consideration are all of the Michigan Standard Criminal Jury Instructions for your charge. These are compiled using the latest caselaw (you would think) but can be dated depending on how often they are updated by the state agencies and trial judge. It is crucial to examine these jury instructions BEFORE you get to trial as they provide a roadmap for what the prosecuting attorney will face in proving your case beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, the prosecuting attorney in your case must prove EVERY single element beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that if their evidence is lacking in only one single area, it could mean a verdict of not guilty. The other commonly overlooked element of a jury trial is the jury selection. A skilled trial attorney can have a great impact on the case in voir dire, or questioning the jury during selection. This preparation involves reviewing jury questionnaires provided by the citizens picked for jury duty. Many courts have poor management in this area and can sometimes provide these questionnaires the morning of the jury trial, so the trial attorney must have a great deal of experience in reviewing these and getting prepared to question the individuals. Bottom line is that you need a skilled trial attorney handling your case from start to finish.