Understanding Jury Trials in Georgia:
Movies and Television programming often give clients a slanted view of the criminal justice system. Clients assume their case will go to trial before a jury. However, the majority of DUI proceedings are settled outside of the courtroom through negotiations with the prosecutor's office. Your case may go to trial, but you must first weigh the pros and cons of litigation.
The first thing to know about Georgia jury trials in DUI cases is that not every court has the ability to offer a jury trial. If your case started in a municipal court, traffic court, probate court, or recorders court, then it must be transferred to a court that has the authority to conduct a jury trial. Your next step would be to go to a State Court or Superior Court. In Georgia, we use six-person juries in misdemeanor cases and twelve-person juries in felony cases. The verdict in any Georgia jury trial must be unanimous. A defendant may also elect to have a bench trial, where a single judge would decide their guilt or innocence. However, at our office, we do not recommend bench trials for our clients.
DUI is a serious offense, and the decision to go to trial or enter a plea is not to be taken lightly. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and they must be thoroughly discussed with your DUI lawyer. If you think that a jury trial would be a good option for your case, you can still try to settle at the lower court. You do not lose any rights by negotiating. Instead, it gives you two chances to reach the desired outcome in your case. In the event your case cannot be resolved favorably, you will not have lost your chance at a trial by engaging in plea bargaining.
When is a Jury Trial a Good Option?
If your attorney believes that you have good arguments that establish reasonable doubt as to your guilt, and the prosecutor does not agree, that is a good reason to have a jury trial. It is essential to select an attorney that is familiar with the judges and prosecutors. Their familiarity with the courts will give you an advantage when deciding on the best option. Trial preparation is extremely important.
Are There Situations Where a Jury Trial is Not a Good Option?
There are situations where we may advise you that a jury trial is not in your best interest. Some people need a faster resolution of their case for work or other personal reasons. Some out of state clients want also to limit the number of appearances they must make.
However, more often than not, the reason to settle your case before trial is that the case warrants settling. Unless you have a winning case, having a trial risks exposure to additional penalties.
Judges will never admit that they increase a person's Georgia DUI Penalties because a person chooses to go to trial. However, judges will decide to punish people more severely because they did not take responsibility for their actions. The result is an incentive for people to close their case through plea bargaining. However, the effect is that people are indeed punished for electing to fight their case.
While most cases are settled through negotiations with the prosecutor, there are reasons to proceed with a jury trial. That is why you need a Georgia DUI Attorney that is proficient in and out of the courtroom. Some attorneys do not like going to trial and will avoid it at all costs. At our office, we want to get you the best outcome possible, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes. Contact us today and speak with one of our experienced DUI Lawyers in Georgia today.