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Patrick T. Barone
The DUI Book
A Michigan Citizen's Handbook on Fighting a Drunk Driving Case
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Parts of the Michigan DUI Trial Process
Hi, I’m Patrick Barone of the Barone Defense Firm and I’d like to discuss with you what to expect during you’re Michigan drunk driving trial. The first determination you will need to make is whether or not to present your case to a Judge or a Jury. If the case is presented is presented to a Judge, it’s called a bench trial. If you decide to go to a Jury, then the case will begin with what’s called, “Jury Selection”. Jury selection includes a portion of the trial called, “Voir Dire”.
Voir Dire is where the attorneys, the prosecutors as well as the defense, have an opportunity to ask the Jury questions. Based on the answers received from those questions, the attorneys can make the decision as to whether or not they want to include those Juror’s in the actual decision making process at the end of the trial.
If you’re charged with a misdemeanor there will be six people who ultimately decide whether you are guilty or not-guilty. If you’re charged with a felony, then it would be twelve people. Based on the number of Jurors that are available, in other words, six or twelve the attorneys will have a number of challenges they can make. There are challenges called, “Prempeh Challenges” and it’s three for a misdemeanor and five for a felony where the attorney doesn’t have to disclose any reason at all and will tell the Judge that they want a particular juror excused. On the other hand, there is also an unlimited number of what are called challenges for cause. They are specifically set forth in the court rule and if the answer that a juror gives fit’s with what the court rule says, you can ask the Judge, “Hey, excuse that person for cause.” The Judge may or may not grant it.
The next part of the trial, of course, is the opening statement. The opening statement can include only what the parties believe the evidence will show. No arguments are allowed. After the opening statement has been given, the witnesses get called. The party that calls the witness does what’s called, “Direct Examination”. The direct examination must not include leading questions. It’s really an opportunity for the witness to tell the Jury what they saw or what they heard or what they know about the facts of the case. Once that is completed, the other party, the other words the attorney that did not call a witness, get’s to ask questions and that’s called, “Cross Examination”. Cross examination and the purpose of it is, is to help the jury to determine whether or not the facts that were recited by the witness are actually true. Also that the witness has any credibility problems, if there’s anything about their background or about their testimony which would suggest that it should not be believed. That needs to be brought forth as part of cross examination as well.
Once all of the witnesses have been called, there’s been direct and cross examination and that all of the evidence has been received. The next step is the closing argument. The closing argument is an opportunity for the parties to actually make an argument. In other words, they can say what they believe the facts have shown and they can describe to the jury why they believe that to be true. That can’t happen in the opening statement, but of course it can happen in the closing argument. During the closing argument the parties typically talk about how they think the facts apply to the law and why they think the jury should find, in their favor, so of course we will be asking the jury to return a verdict of not-guilty on your behalf.
Once all of that is done, the next part of the procedure and trial is for the Judge to explain to the jury what the law is. Those are called jury instructions. The Judge will give a very detailed explanation of the elements of drunk driving, including certain definitions, such as the definition of operation, the definition of intoxication, and so forth. Then the Judge will also explain what a reasonable doubt is and then the jury will be released or discharged to the jury assembly room so that they can have their deliberations and come to a verdict. Once a verdict has been reached, they will come into the court room and the person who has been elected fore person will stand up and will recite to the court what the verdict is.
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• Sample Michigan DUI Jury Selection and Trial (Part 1)
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