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DUI/DWI Trial in Georgia

The Trial

Your hearing before a judge and jury – your criminal trial – takes into account all facts presented by both sides to resolve your guilt. The determining question the jury faces is if, “beyond a sensible doubt,” you committed the crime in question.

Both sides present their proof and arguments, and call upon witnesses, and the jury finds out if you are guilty or not guilty of the crimes charged against you.

There are seven steps in your criminal trial:

1. The jury is selected

2. Opening statements are given by attorneys for both sides

3. Witnesses testify and are cross-examined

4. Closing arguments are given by attorneys on both sides

5. The judge gives the jury their instructions

6. The jury deliberates

7. The jury delivers their verdict

Step 1: The jury is chosen

The judge and opposing attorneys question likely jurors who have been called in for jury duty. Questions may range from their private opinion of drinking to whether they have ever been arrested for DUI.

Jurors are accepted or rejected by each side. An attorney may defy the choice of a juror acknowledged by other side “for cause,” which means reasons are given why this person is unacceptable. The judge rules on the challenge. The lawyer may excuse a juror by “peremptory challenge,” meaning they do not have to give a cause for passing up the juror. Each legal representative gets a certain number of rejections “for cause” and on “peremptory challenge.”

Step 2: Opening statements are given by lawyers for both sides

An opening statement is given first by the prosecuting legal representative and then the defendant’s lawyer or public defender. Each is allowed to present the case in question from his or her particular belief and tries to sway the jury toward their side with winning arguments. Each wants the jurors to feel predisposed towards their side.

Step 3: Witnesses give evidence and are cross-examined

Physical data such as medical reports or photographs are presented and witnesses are called to bear witness. The witnesses may have seen what took place, or they may be experts in a particular field of study that supports the lawyer’s argument.

The witness first answers questions presented by the lawyer who called the witness to the stand to speak. The other side’s attorney is then authorized to “cross-examine,” or ask another set of questions. After that, the first attorney has another chance to ask questions of the witness. Depending on the number of witnesses, this may go on at length.

When both sides want to “rest,” this means they have no more arguments and it is time for the jury to think about all of the facts.

Step 4: Closing arguments are given by lawyers on both sides

Closing arguments are an opportunity for both lawyers to give their closing pitch to the jury on their version of the events.

Step 5: The judge gives the jury their directions

The judge speaks to the jury about their orders – the legal rules that must be followed to come to a fair and just determination of guilt or absence of guilt. The jury may be asked to ignore things that happened during the trial – for example, an outburst of emotion from a person in the courtroom who was not involved in the trial.

It will be made clear to the jury precisely what crimes are being charged and can be considered.

Step 6: The jury deliberates

The jury leaves the court for a secured chamber where they deliberate the proof of the case. This is called “deliberation.” The point is that they should see eye to eye as a group on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. This possibly will take an hour or a week.

Step 7: The jury delivers their verdict

The jury’s “foreperson,” who was appointed at the beginning of the trial, delivers the jury’s conclusion to the judge. The judge announces the outcome to the courtroom.

In some cases the jury cannot choose unanimously on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. This standoff is called a “hung jury.” The judge declares a mistrial and this portion of the method – from jury selection onwards – begins again.

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