How Often Do DUI Cases In Marin County Go To Trial?
Most DUI cases in Marin County will settle outside of court or get dismissed prior to trial. I would say that fewer than two percent of DUI cases in Marin County actually go to trial, largely due to the fact that fighting a DUI case is difficult. Certain DUI cases are more likely to go to trial than others, such as those in which the identity of the driver is in question. If there were multiple people in the vehicle, the officer might not be able to tell who was driving. This would pose a big problem for the prosecution in proving one of the elements of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In every case, we consider the strengths and weaknesses of the defendant’s position and the pros and cons of going to trial.
What Is The Criteria That You Look At When Deciding Whether To Take A DUI Case To Trial Or Accept A Plea Offer?
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to take a DUI case to trial or accept a plea offer. One factor is the strength of the defense. If we are able to assert the strong defense that our client was not driving, then we may take that to trial. Another defense is to assert that there was a rising alcohol level, which would explain why the defendant’s blood alcohol content wasn’t as high at the time of driving as the test result might suggest. It is often the case that by the time someone is tested for alcohol via a blood or breath test, the alcohol will be fully absorbed into their system, thus showing the highest blood alcohol level. This, however, would not indicate the person’s blood alcohol content at the actual time of driving.
Also factored into the decision of whether or not to take a case to trial are the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest. For example, was there an accident? Was the defendant driving erratically? Did the defendant perform horribly on the field sobriety tests? If certain actions or behaviors were caught on camera and shown to the jury, it must be considered whether the jury would likely find that there was impairment. In fact, a finding of impairment—even if the blood alcohol content was under 0.08—could result in a guilty verdict.
If someone gets pulled over in Novato, Sausalito, Mill Valley, or any of the towns in Marin County and decides to refuse the field sobriety tests and breath test but consents to the blood test, then we may be in a strong position to defend against the results of that blood test—especially since it would be the only form of evidence the prosecution has against the defendant. There are several things which could impact the validity of a blood test result, such as an undocumented chain of custody, contamination of the sample, improper calibration of the machine that was used to test the blood, and the sheer complexity of the procedures involved. We may bring in expert witness who can testify about all the issues that can come up during the blood testing process.
If the district attorney knows that we have a solid defense and that it will be difficult for them to prove their case to a jury, then they may be more willing to offer a reduced charge or even dismiss the case. With that said, if the prosecution has proof of a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08, then the case probably will not get dismissed. All it takes is for one juror to say “Not guilty” in order for my client to avoid a DUI conviction. However, it can be very difficult to convince jurors not to convict a DUI defendant. Having tried DUI cases in Marin County for years, I know that it’s a tough jury pool. While it’s a very liberal town, the county is very tough on DUI cases. Ultimately, the choice between accepting a plea offer and going to trial is the client’s. It is my job to help them make this choice—not to make the choice for them.
Do Most Of Your Clients Who’ve Been Charged With DUI In Marin County Have A Misunderstanding Of What It Means To Actually Take A Case To Trial?
Many people don’t understand what it means to take a DUI case to trial, so I will explain the procedure in detail so that they know what they would be able to expect and can make an informed decision. A potential client who has never been involved with the law might call me and say they were arrested in Mill Valley, Novato, Tiburon, or Green Brae for a DUI and that they have no idea what to do.
I will explain the potential penalties, the process of the DMV hearing, how long the case could take and why, the various court appearances that may be necessary, why we might enter a suppression motion, etc. At some point, most cases will settle. I will tell the client that I need to spend a lot of time investigating and researching the case in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses and help them decide the wisest course of action.
I don’t expect people to understand how this whole system works. It’s a complex legal system, which is why people hire lawyers. I’m just here to help my clients navigate and understand the system, and to answer their questions. I give all of my clients my cell phone number so that they can call me to discuss their case. I’m available 24/7; if I’m awake, I’m working.