Is it even possible to get a fair DUI bench trial? From what I hear in my county its possible but not always the case. As one attorney stated a DUI bench trial is just a extended guilty plea. There seems to be a lot of pressure from society and companies like MADD put on Judges and district attorneys.
If it is first offense or a second offense based on alcohol as opposed to drugs, with a BAC .16 or lower, you are not entitled to a jury trial. If it is a second offense and you refused chemical testing, you get a jury trial. I guess the issue is that if you have a case where they obtained a sample of your blood or breath and your BAC was well above .08 or you had a non-prescribed controlled substance in your blood, like marijuana, what type of "fairness" you expect? I mean defending a case with a blood alcohol content well above the limit is tough. If they used a breath machine, you can challenge the accuracy of that machine. Assuming they used a breath machine and you have a realistic argument that the machine was not working, or your BAC was say 5% or less above the legal limit and within a "margin of error" for the charge you are facing, you may have a chance and you could get a "fair trial" from many judges. In fact. If you have a legitimate argument, your case might be better presented to a judge. You need an attorney who knows the track record of the judge you are in front of..
If you mean "a trial that comports with the requirements of due process," then yes, absolutely.
If you mean "a trial that results in me not doing any jail time and keeping my license," well, that's a lot less likely. If you did, in fact, drive while under the influence, and if the police have evidence to that effect, then you're in trouble.
You are correct as to pressure. Add the press to that list.
A jury is more likely to look for evidence of "drunk" driving rather than impaired driving. Judges try to be fair. They believe they are being fair - to you - and to the public.
You already have answers from fine Pennsylvania lawyers. I am writing to agree that a lawyer will help.
Often people think that because it isn’t a murder case, a drunk driving case is simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. These cases can be among the most complex a criminal defense lawyer handles. The government is willing to spend an incredible amount of money to convict you though. They will have expert witnesses available for consultation and trial.
That you have been charged or that some contraption says your alcohol level was at a certain level does not mean that you are guilty. It certainly does not mean that you can be proven guilty using competent, valid evidence.
Field sobriety “tests” are designed to give police a reason to arrest. You cannot “pass” them. The police will admit that almost a third of healthy young adults who take these tests without any alcohol will be judged to be “under the influence” – and that assumes they are properly administered!
After even a first drunk driving conviction, you may face employment discrimination. You will certainly be charged higher for insurance. Having such a conviction will also make you a target for drunk driving arrest in future interactions with police. You will automatically become a suspect.
You will want a lawyer who is familiar with field sobriety “tests,” perhaps one who is certified to administer these tests. You will want a lawyer familiar with the weaknesses of the contraptions that are used to report alcohol or drug levels. You want an experienced trial lawyer, used to cross-examining police officers. Police officers are practiced, experienced witnesses.
That is, you want an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer, whether you call the offense DUI, OWI, DWI, OUI, or drugged driving.
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