SHOULD THE ACCUSED TESTIFY AT DUI TRIAL?
TWO MATTERS IN DUI CASES
In a typical DUI matter there are typically two different arenas that the matter can be challenged. These are the DMV and the criminal court. (It should be noted that some DMV matters are appealed to a Superior Court on a Writ. However, we will not be addressing that scenario in this blog entry.) The DMV is a civil, administrative matter that deals solely with an individual’s license to drive. The state appoints a magistrate – DMV Hearing Officer – to preside over that hearing. The Hearing Officer is not an attorney. However, the Officer does receive legal training from the DMV.
CRIMINAL COURT DETERMINES GUILT
The purpose of the criminal court matter is to determine whether a person is guilty of the charged offense and what kind of punishment the person will receive. Often times punishment includes jail time, a fine, court fees, alcohol program(s), probation, and an interlock device.
Whether a person testifies can make a difference in the outcome of a person’s matter. The testimony can either improve the outcome case for the accused or ensure a conviction of the accused.
There are several things that should be taken into consideration to determine whether the accused should testify.
The case can be improved if there are certain items of information that can only be provided by the defendant. For instance, if an officer finds the accused sleeping alone in the vehicle parked in from of the accused house the officer may assumed that the accused drove home intoxicated and failed to exit the vehicle. The accused, however, can testify that he was drinking in his house and walked to his car to play the car radio. This testimony could show a reasonable explanation as to how an officer can rush to judgment and arrest an innocent person. The accused may be acquitted in a court trial or have the suspension set aside in a DMV hearing.
TESTIFYING CAN HURT CASE
Other times, however, a person’s testimony can sink their case. For instance, if the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to convict the accused, and the accused decides to testify in his/her own defense. Once the accused takes the stand, the prosecutor can fill in the missing evidence from his/her case to ensure a conviction. An example is if the accused refused all chemical tests thus making it difficult to prove impairment. If the accused nevertheless takes the stand and testifies to drinking prior to driving, the prosecutor will have a greater chance to convict the accused.
Other issues that can impact the outcome include whether the accused has a bad personality, appears dishonest, admits to prior DUI’s or other criminal arrests or convictions, or admits to lying to the police officer. All of these factors can lead to a conviction.
In closing, there are many things to consider when deciding whether the accused should testify. After all, the testimony can lead to a guaranteed conviction for a prosecutor.