Getting arrested for drunk driving – or driving under the influence, or just DUI – is stressful, and hectic. You're being accused of committing a crime, and that's not easy to take without getting very anxious.
Not only that, but a DUI charge means that you have to deal with something that you have little understanding of – the Georgia court system. Not knowing what can happen, but knowing that losing your case will result in a license suspension, fines, and even jail time, can be scary. But understanding the criminal system is an imposing task, because there are so many pieces to it.
Take a deep breath, sit back, and relax. It's easy to get flustered when there's no one helping you to sort out how things work. Let me walk you through how one of the biggest pieces involved in a DUI case in Atlanta – witnesses.
Both the prosecution and your defense attorney can call witnesses in a DUI case. The prosecution will bring in witnesses that show that you're guilty of what you've been charged with, while the defense will bring in witnesses to make the jury doubt the prosecution. Whenever one side brings in a witness, the other side has the opportunity to cross-examine them, and challenge them on everything that they've said on the stand. In this way, the jury gets to hear witnesses say what they saw and what they think, and then get to hear the witness answer questions about what they just said. This helps the jury determine what actually happened.
There are lots of different witnesses that the jury can hear from. You can testify about what happened, along with the police officer who made the traffic stop, any passengers in your car, anyone who saw the traffic stop happen and develop, law enforcement personnel that handled evidence, medical personnel that administered any blood or urine tests that were conducted, or expert witnesses.
While this might seem like a lot of people, they can be broken down into two different categories: People who have direct knowledge of your case, called regular witnesses, and people who don't have direct knowledge of your case, called expert witnesses.
Regular witnesses are the people who were there, at the traffic stop, or who have a direct knowledge of your case. The most commonly called regular witnesses are you, the responding police officer, passengers in your car, people who saw, but were not involved in the traffic stop – like a nearby store owner – and workers who handled the evidence that is being used by the prosecution.
When regular witnesses take the stand in a DUI trial, they can answer questions about what happened in this particular case. They can talk about how you were acting, looking, or feeling, what the cop did during the stop, and other things that happened.
While this might seem like you would always make a good witness for your DUI trial, this is not always case. Unfortunately, while you would be able to talk about your first-hand knowledge of what happened during the traffic stop and arrest, it would also open you up to a cross-examination by the prosecutor. Cross-examinations are notoriously unpleasant experiences, because the prosecutor will try to turn around everything that you said, and make it seem as if you're guilty. Additionally, if you have anything in your criminal history, the prosecutor can bring that up, as well, as they try to stain your reputation in front of the jury.
For these reasons, you should always talk to your attorney as to whether you should testify on your own behalf at trial. It's a very trying experience, and sometimes what you would say on the stand is not worth the risk of what would come out, during the cross-examination. An experienced DUI defense attorney knows when it would be in your best interest to take the stand, in your own defense.
The other category of witnesses are expert witnesses. They were not there, at your traffic stop and arrest, and do not have a direct knowledge of your case. However, they have an intimate knowledge of one aspect or another of DUI cases, and can use that knowledge to give their expert opinion on what happened in your case.
For example, there are experts in the machines that police departments use to administer breath and blood testing. These experts can come to trial and testify as to how the machines work, and point out how they can be manipulated by law enforcement, and how they can spit back inaccurate results. They can review what happened in your case, and give their opinion as to whether the testing was accurate.
While expert witnesses can be important allies to a DUI defense, they also charge a fee for testifying, and often for just reviewing your case. Nevertheless, they're an important option to consider, and to discuss with your defense attorney, as soon as you make the decision to take your case to trial.
So, there you have it. Witnesses are an important element to consider in a DUI trial, as they can make or break your case. Hiring an expert witness to challenge the prosecutor's evidence, or taking the stand in your own defense are options that you'll have to consider as the trial date approaches.
However, having an experienced DUI attorney on your side to help you through these decisions is an invaluable asset. Because I've defended hundreds of DUI cases in the Atlanta area, I know when an expert witness is something that could really help you out, or when is a good time for you to testify in your own defense.
If you've been accused of DUI, and are facing charges, these are stressful times ahead. Let me help you through them. Call me at my law office: (404) 816-4440.