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Possible to get a fair DUI bench trial?

Pittsburgh, PA |

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.

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Attorney answers 5


A good defense attorney will know all the criminal judges on the bench and will know their tendencies on certain cases. Make sure you have such an attorney and take their advise.


If this is a first offense DUI then if you want a trial you will have no choice but a bench trial. Can you get a fair one? Yes. Keep in mind that a fair trial does not necessarily mean that you will get the result you desire.

This information does not create an attorney /client relationship and should not be use or relied upon to make any decision in your case. Only consultation with your own attorney can provide you with the advice you need for your case.


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.

This answer does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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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--- Experienced DUI/DWI/OWI/Drunk Driving Lawyer in Madison, Wisconsin

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Confidential information should not be disclosed in this Internet forum.

I am an experienced Wisconsin drunk driving (DUI/OWI/DWI) defense lawyer practicing in Madison (Dane County) Wisconsin. The laws in each jurisdiction can be very different. I cannot give legal advice over the Internet nor can I establish an attorney client relationship with you.

If something I say disagrees with what your own lawyer is telling you, you should rely on your lawyer who is familiar with you, your entire case, the local courts and practices.

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Confidential information should not be disclosed in this Internet forum. Click on the "More..." link for IMPORTANT INFORMATION about this AVVO Answer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I am an experienced Wisconsin lawyer. The laws in each jurisdiction can be very different. I cannot give legal advice over the internet nor can I establish an attorney client relationship with you. You should NOT assume or otherwise conclude that there is an attorney -client relationship between any reader and this writer or his firm. These comments are only guideposts. They are not subject to any privilege protections. Indeed, these internet communications are neither privileged nor confidential. Accordingly, those using this form of communication need to be guarded in what they write. Because of the nature of these communications the information is general only and should not be relied upon in any specific case. This internet site is public forum, where the communications are not confidential or privileged. There may very well be merit to your defense or position in this type of situation. However, there are hardly sufficient details for an attorney to provide you with some path to follow. It is imperative that ALL of the facts in a particular situation be examined. No conclusion can be drawn from the communication that you have provided. There are some matters that are just better handled by an attorney familiar with the procedures of the courts in your area. Most, if not all, legal matters should not be handled via internet communication. At best, the responders on this site can give you a few hints and guidance. To deal with a legal problem, nothing is better than to consult with a lawyer who will give you some time and advice. If you cannot afford an attorney, there should be agencies in your area that can provide discounted, or even free, legal services. For a definitive answer you should seek legal advice from an attorney who (1) is licensed to practice in the state which has jurisdiction; (2) has experience in the area of law you are asking about, and (3) has been retained as your attorney for representation or consultation. Your question and the attorney’s answer may be used for promotional or educational purposes.

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