Considering a Jury Trial to Fight a DUI in Maryland
Driving under the influence is a serious traffic offense that may lead to significant penalties, such as jail time and steep fines, and the possibility of taking a mandated DUI course and installing an ignition interlock device. People caught driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated (DWI) also face license suspension. A DUI charge will appear on a background check and could have lasting repercussions.
When you discuss your DUI or DWI with a Maryland DUI defense lawyer, you learn about your defense options. Your lawyer’s goal is to reduce the charge and/or penalties you face if you’re convicted. Ideally, your lawyer will successfully negotiate with the prosecutor to have your case dismissed. It may also be possible to plead guilty to a lesser offense to face less severe punishment.
Often, DUI defendants in Maryland make these plea deals in exchange for a reduced sentence. Plea deals help defendants avoid trial, which can be expensive, time-consuming, and unpredictable. On the other hand, you do have the right to a trial for your DUI case.
Exercising Your Right to a Jury Trial in Maryland
It is your Constitutional right to request a jury trial. A jury trial is one in which 12 jurors, who are your peers in the community, hear the evidence for and against you and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the crime. DUI and DWI cases in Maryland start in the District Court for the county in which the offense took place. Your first trial date is held in the District Court. These courts do not accommodate juries. Rather, juries attend trials held in Maryland’s circuit courts.
You may elect a jury trial at your appearance in the District Court. You may “pray a jury trial,” meaning that you formally request for your case to move from the District to the Circuit Court system where you may appear before a jury. The right to a jury trial in Maryland depends on the severity of the alleged offense. If the offense may lead to a jail term of more than 90 days, you may request a jury trial.
Bench Trials and Jury Trials in Maryland
Once you appear in Circuit Court, you may decide whether to elect a bench or jury trial. A bench trial is a trial that is held before a judge. In a bench trial, the judge is the finder of fact. He or she plays the role of the jury and makes the final judgment. This may be advantageous in some cases. Overall, bench trials may be:
● Less time consuming,
● Less formal,
● Less complex, and
● More effective when presenting complex facts or legal concepts than jury trials in Maryland.
However, a jury trial may provide advantages when the facts of your case are in dispute. If your lawyer and the prosecution cannot agree, for example, on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, a jury trial may work in your favor.
Who sits on a jury in a Maryland DUI case?
In Maryland, jurors are selected at random from motor vehicle and voter rolls. Anyone who is registered to vote in the state, or anyone with a driver’s license or ID card who is at least 18 years of age, a United States citizen, a Maryland resident, and can read and write in English is eligible to serve on a jury.
The jurors on your case will come from the county in which the trial is held. Different counties may have different views and beliefs about law and order; some jurors may favor a “tough on crime” approach to criminal justice, while others might be more understanding of a defendant’s actions. Some jurors may personally have been impacted by a drunk driving accident or a relative struggling with alcohol abuse. All of these factors come into play when deciding whether or not you should take your DUI case to trial.
What happens if the jury cannot decide a defendant’s innocence or guilt unanimously?
If the jury cannot agree to whether a defendant is guilty of DUI or DWI, the case will result in a “hung jury.” This doesn’t mean the defendant is off the hook. Instead, the State of Maryland has the power to try the case as many times as necessary until the jury votes unanimously for or against a conviction.
Don’t Take Chances. Work with a Maryland DUI Attorney Today.
At The Law Office of Hillel Traub, our firm provides competent legal counsel for clients facing criminal traffic charges in Maryland. Attorney Hillel Traub has more than 20 years of experience fighting criminal traffic violations. As a former Assistant Attorney General for the MVA, he understands how they work to prevent you from exercising your driving privileges. You have the right to a quality defense after a DUI charge in Maryland; don’t hesitate to take action today.
Call (410) 580-1100 for a free consultation or complete our contact form. The sooner you work with a qualified attorney, the better the outcome of your case may be.