Types of Maryland DUI Trials
Following a DUI arrest, an individual faces a DUI trial. What they might not realize is that there are two different types of Maryland DUI trials, bench trials, and jury trials. The accused is allowed to choose whether they want to a jury trial or a bench trial, but it is helpful to consult their DUI lawyer before making a decision. If a person is currently facing a DUI trial, they should get in touch with a skilled attorney that could help them decide which type of trial best suits their case, and advocate for them.
Differences Between Bench and Jury Trials
The main difference between the two types of Maryland DUI trials is the location. A bench trial can take place at both district and circuit courts and that is where a judge would sit in both fact and law. They can rule on objections, and then they listen to all the facts presented by the evidence, be it spoken, by report, video, or forensics. They would come to a decision based on the facts presented.
In the circuit courts, a person has the right to a jury trial. A jury would be 12 people with the motor voter polls of that specific county where the person was stopped. Maryland has 23 counties and one city which is Baltimore City, and wherever the stop takes place would be the proper county and the person would be in the circuit court for that county.
Circuit Court Trials
Each county has one singular circuit court. They may have a number of district courts, but they have one circuit court and that is where a jury trial would take place. A DUI is a traffic citation. It will always come in the district level. There are very few exceptions, but in most cases, if in fact a person is charged in the district court and one of those tickets carries greater than 90 days, the person has the right to pay a jury trial. That jury trial takes place in the circuit court and the person is given a day where they get a jury pool. They select from a pool of about 35 people and choose 12 people and one alternate to sit on the jury. They will make their decision based on their jury instructions, the laws in place, the elements that must meet those laws, and the evidence presented in court.
What Kind of Trial Do Attorneys Typically Suggest?
Of the two types of Maryland DUI trials, lawyers tend to suggest jury trials. They want to try the case in district court first because if the person loses, the person has the right to appeal. If the person is given a probation before judgment and they accept that, it is not a conviction, and the person waives their right to appeal. But, outside of that window, the person always has the right to appeal.
If the person has a trial hearing, and they have the opportunity to try it in the district court, then they should try it there. In the worst-case scenario, the person will lose and appeal it. If a person is arguing technical law issues, there is always a good reason to have a bench trial, but most of the time, the client will want 12 jurors because all 12 have to come to a unanimous verdict. It has to be 12 to zero, not guilty or guilty, but it must be 12 to zero. If it is 11 to one, it is a hung jury and if any of those charges survive, then the state has a right to retry the case. But if all are dismissed but for one, maybe that encourages some form of resolution. There is really no reason to jump straight to a jury, at least not for most cases.
Reasons a Maryland DUI Attorney Would Suggest a Jury Trial
A criminal defense lawyer may suggest a jury trial in counties that have favorable juries because they believe there is a good chance of getting a favorable outcome. Maybe the actions taken by an officer that were certainly less than pleasant and the jury could be turned off by this interaction.
Judges tend to just listen to the facts. Jurors, however, weigh not only the words of an individual but how they say them and what they are doing. If someone is rude or attacks a witness, it may make a juror uncomfortable. They may not like a lawyer and that could distract them from the defendant.
There are great reasons to suggest a jury trial, but it depends on the layout of the case. If all the facts are present, take it to the jury. It will depend on the entirety of the DUI case and if a jury is able to distinguish these facts or not. If it is an argument for law and precedent, sometimes it is best to just leave it with a judge. The jury may get it wrong, but it is a game of trial and error. If an individual wants to know more about the different types of Maryland DUI trials, they should speak with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer that could answer their questions.