An Overview of the Colorado DUI Trial Process

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Before you decide whether you want to take a plea or go to trial, you need to be informed of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.  In order for your Colorado DUI Attorney to properly inform you, he must prepare your case for trial.

This series discusses the process of preparing a DUI for trial.  First, we will provide an overview of a trial.  In later posts, we will go into the details of the trial, looking at each step under a microscope to help you understand how lawyer’s approach DUIs and how defenses are developed and used in DUI cases.

An Overview of a Colorado DUI Trial:

At the trial, the Prosecutor will have the opportunity to present his case to the jury and you will have your opportunity to present your case to the jury.  The Prosecutor must present his case beyond a reasonable doubt for you to be convicted.  Your attorney will work to show the jury that the Prosecutor has not proven his case beyond a reasonable doubt and to show the jury the defenses that you may have to your case.

In preparation for trial, your attorney will file motions that are designed to limit the amount of evidence that can be used against you by the prosecutor at trial.  In addition to the motions that will be filed, there will be a number of critical decisions that are made before, during, and after the trial by you and your attorney.  These decisions include

  • the selection of a jury who will be receptive to you,
  • the way that your attorney cross-examines the police officers, medical experts, and other witnesses,
  • whether you will call any witnesses or testify on your own behalf,
  • and the instructions that will be handed to the jury for them to consider when deciding your case.

The Trial Timeline: The Motions Hearing Prior to Trial

In some jurisdictions, you will receive a separate motion hearing before your trial date.  At the motion hearing your attorney will have the opportunity to argue any legal issues that could potentially keep evidence from being presented to the jury, prevent people from testifying, or to ask the court to dismiss your case based on a legal principle.

After the motions hearing, the prosecutor may or may not give you a new plea offer.  In a number of jurisdictions, the prosecutor will take the original plea offer off the table at the motions hearing.

The Trial Timeline: Selecting the Jury

Once you arrive for your trial date, the first thing that will happen is the jury selection.  This is the process where individuals are brought into the courtroom and your attorney asks them questions to determine whether any of them have a bias or prejudice against you or your case.  From this jury panel, your jury will be selected by removing any individuals who have a bias or a prejudice.  Jury Selection is an essential part of the court process because it gives you the opportunity to select the group of people who will be deciding your case.

The Trial Timeline: Opening Statements

When the jury selection is finished, the trial will begin by swearing in the jury and the delivering of opening statements.  At this point, your attorney will have the opportunity to present the facts of your case to the jury and what the evidence will show over the course of the trial.  This is also the time when your attorney can introduce the jury to your theory of the case and why they should rule in your favor.

The Trial Overview: The Prosecutor’s Case In Chief

Next, the prosecutor will begin his “case-in-chief”.  This is the prosecutor’s opportunity to call his witnesses and prove his case.  Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine each of the prosecutor’s witnesses.  The prosecutor will use his case in chief to develop his case and show the jury that all of the elements of the crime have been met beyond a reasonable doubt.  Throughout the case in chief, your attorney will have the opportunity to cast doubt on the prosecutors case through effective cross examination.

The Trial Overview: Presenting Your Case

When the prosecutor has called all of his witnesses, he will rest his case.  After the prosecutor rests, your attorney will present his “case-in-chief”.  At this point, he will call witnesses and if you decide to testify, you will do so at this time.  In addition to cross-examination, this will be the point where your attorney can point out weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and to develop defenses as well as your theory of the case.

The Trial Overview: Jury Instructions

Typically, when the trial is nearing its end, the judge will review the jury instructions.  These will be submitted by the prosecutor and the judge will ask your attorney whether he has any objections to the instructions.  Your attorney, after reviewing the instructions, will object to any errors in the instructions and suggest his own instructions.  Ultimately, the judge will decide which instructions go to the jury.

The Trial Overview: Motion for a Directed Verdict

After your attorney calls his last witness, your attorney can argue that your case should be dismissed for failure of the prosecutor to prove his case.  When the judge considers the motion, it will weigh the facts in the light most favorable to the prosecutor.  If there are enough facts to support the prosecutor’s case, the trial will continue.

The Trial Overview: Closing Arguments

Last, the prosecutor and your attorney will deliver their closing arguments.  This is the last chance that your attorney will have to influence the jury and show them the strengths of your case.

The Trial Overview: Jury Deliberation

At this point, the jury will be taken into a room where they will decide what will happen in your case.  Under most circumstances, they will either come back with a guilty or not guilty.  In some circumstances, they will be unable to come back with a unanimous verdict and the judge will find that there is a hung jury.  If there is a hung jury, your case may be retried, the prosecutor may dismiss, or the prosecutor may offer you a more favorable plea agreement than before.

Throughout the trial process, you will need an attorney who can help you navigate through the process.  You want to give yourself the best shot, so you should work with the best Colorado DUI Attorney available to you.

In the next post, we will look at typical motions that are filed before the trial begins and discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of each motion.

The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

Series NavigationPre-Trial Motions in a Colorado DUI Case >>

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca