A Brief Timeline Of A DUI Trial In Illinois
Before trial, I always file pre-trial motions. That is called a motion in limine. Basically, that is a motion that asks the court to exclude certain evidence, or asks for evidentiary rulings before the trial begins. That is extremely important, particularly in a jury trial. For example, if we had a situation where I thought there was going to be a witness who might give hearsay testimony, rather than just let that witness give their hearsay testimony during the trial, have me object, and then have the judge grant me my objection, I would ask the judge to give a ruling ahead of time. The problem with waiting to object during trial is that the members of the jury then have already heard the evidence I wanted to exclude. Even if the judge tells them to disregard it, most people will not forget what they just heard in a jury trial. It is not as if you can stop the bell from ringing after it has already been rung. I always file pre-trial motions asking for rulings on that type of evidence ahead of time so that way if the judge decides that certain evidence is improper, I can avoid the jury from hearing that evidence altogether at the very beginning.
In a jury trial, the next step is to pick the individuals that will form the jury. That is where we essentially interview all the potential jurors, and learn about each one. From that interview process, we then try to determine which of those people we want on our jury and which ones we do not. We can ask the judge to exclude certain people for cause. For example, if we have a DUI case that involved an accident with injuries, a potential juror themselves, or maybe a close family member, was involved in an accident with a DUI driver or drunk driver, we might be able to have that individual excluded for cause. They might have a preconceived prejudice against the case. Excluding a potential juror for cause means that there is a factual or legal basis to ask for their removal.
We also have what are called peremptory challenges, which allow us to exclude a certain number of people for no reason at all. It could be that we just have a bad feeling about the person. We don’t have to tell the judge or the prosecutor why we excluded the potential juror either. The state’s attorney has the same ability to exclude people for cause or just because they do not like them. Once we have picked the jury, then we start the evidence part of the trial.
During a bench trial, the judge listens to the evidence and makes the determination whether my client is guilty or not guilty. At a jury trial those twelve people must make a unanimous decision whether the client is guilty or not guilty.
Both prosecution and defense may make an opening statement. The state, because they have the burden of proof, they have to make their opening statements first. Then I will make my opening statement for the defense. Then the state goes first with their evidence. The state will present evidence and witnesses, and I will than have an opportunity to cross-examine and confront every one of those witnesses. I have opportunities to object to any evidence that the state is trying to admit during the trial.
When the state’s case is over, I usually make a motion for directed finding, and that is a motion in essence asking the judge to make a determination that the state has not even met any sort of barebones standard of evidence, and that the state’s case is so weak that the judge should just make a determination for the defense right then and there. If the judge grants it, then the case is over. If the judge denies that motion for directed finding, then if we have decided to do so, then the defense would present evidence and witnesses. My client has the opportunity to testify in his or her own defense, but they do not have to.
If they do not, that will not be held against them. Of course, the state’s attorneys will have an opportunity to cross-examine any of our witnesses. When all the evidence and witnesses have been presented, then we go into closing arguments. A bench trial primarily operates the same way. It is a little bit more abbreviated. A simple jury trial will take two to three full days, but a bench trial can sometimes finish in an afternoon.
Do You Recommend Counseling Or Treatment For Your Clients?
Counseling and treatment are completely separate from a trial. Any sort of treatment, such as, AA, or any sort of rehabilitation is not going to have any determination on the outcome of a trial. That type of evidence could be important at sentencing if the individual is found guilty, but at trial the only issue is whether the state can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether that person has had alcohol treatment or counseling is completely irrelevant and generally inadmissible at most trials.
If Someone Is Convicted, Is The Original Plea Offer Redundant For Sentencing Purposes?
Occasionally the prosecutor might extend a plea agreement during the trial before its conclusion, but once the judge or jury has rendered a guilty verdict, then all deals are off the table. There is no way to resurrect a plea agreement at that point. That is why it is so important to really take your time and go over all of your options and make sure clients understand everything before we make that decision.
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