Understanding Colonial Heights DUI Trials

If you have been charged with a DUI, you likely have several questions regarding the litigation process you could be facing. You may wonder at what court your case will be held, if it is possible to resolve your case without needing to go to court, or what the trial process entails overall. A qualified criminal lawyer could answer all your questions and ensure you understand each step of the DUI litigation process. Reach out to an experienced DUI attorney today.

DUI Courts

In any DUI case in which the defendant does not want to plead guilty, there will be a trial. The trial could be held in either the general district court or the circuit court, depending on the severity of the case.

General District Court

In Colonial Heights, all misdemeanor offenses, driving infractions, and felony preliminary hearings are going to be held in the general district court. It generally handles cases with claims between $4,500 and $25,000.

District court judges tend to treat DUI charges very seriously. They are prosecuted aggressively and rarely reduced without good cause recognized by the Commonwealth. The General Assembly elects general district court judges. When a position opens up, the General Assembly votes on who they want to have in the general district court seat, and they pick from a list of candidates.

Circuit Court

In Colonial Heights, the circuit court has the jurisdiction to hear all felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions brought up in all cases. The circuit court hears all criminal cases that are brought before it in, as well as cases with claims over $25,000.

Like the general district court, Colonial Heights circuit court judges tend to treat DUI charges seriously. They are prosecuted in the circuit court to the full extent of the law and rarely reduced. Circuit court judges are chosen from the group of general district court judges in the area who want to move up to the circuit court.

Resolving DUI Cases Before Trial

Cases are resolved before trial either through an agreement by the parties or the Commonwealth dismissing the matter due to a lack of evidence. However, it is rare for cases to be resolved before going to court. For more information about resolving a case before going to trial, reach out to a knowledgeable lawyer.

How DUI Trials Work

Assuming that the defendant is found guilty at the general district court level, they could appeal the case and then move to the circuit court to have a trial by jury. There are several steps that are involved in the trial process.

Jury Selection

At a jury trial, there is going to be a jury selection. It is called voir dire and that is where the Commonwealth and the judge go through striking jurors and selecting jurors, trying to find a jury that could be fair and impartial to the defendant and the Commonwealth. Jury selection is an essential part of understanding DUI trials in Colonial Heights.

Opening Statements and Cross-Examinations

After the jury selection process, there are the opening statements. Opening statements primarily occur in jury trials. While they could occur in bench trials, they typically are waived because the judge does not need to hear an opening statement. At the opening statement, the Commonwealth presents its evidence. After each witness testifies, the defense counsel has the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.

Afterward, the Commonwealth may motion to strike outside of the presence of the jury. If the judge grants a motion to strike, the case is closed. If not, the jury comes back and the defense presents their evidence.

The defense then directs, the Commonwealth cross-examines, and the defense redirects. The jury leaves again and they do their second motion and the Commonwealth has an opportunity to put on rebuttal evidence. The jury then leaves again and there may be a second motion to strike, but this time with a “beyond-all-reasonable-doubt” standard. If the judge agrees to the motion to strike, the case is dismissed.

Closing Statements

The Commonwealth makes their closing argument first, the defendant makes their closing argument, and the Commonwealth rebuts the closing argument. While the judge usually makes the decision, in this case, the jury makes the decision. If the jury and the judge say not guilty, the case is closed. If the judge or jury says guilty, they go to the sentencing. The jury goes back into the room after the judge tells the jury what the sentencing range is. They consider the range and say what the sentence is going to be. The judge will then sentence the defendant.

Contact a Colonial Heights Lawyer About Understanding DUI Trials

Putting together a defense claim can be challenging. Fortunately, you do not have to do it alone. A dedicated defense attorney could help you every step of the way. An attorney with an understanding of Colonial Heights DUI trials could help you. Call today.