Posted by DUI attorney in Phoenix Nick Alcock

Here’s exactly why people should be entitled to a trial by jury for DUI charges. In Allentown PA, a woman won her trial by jury on the equivalent of an extreme DUI, but then the judge found her guilty for a lesser form of the charge.

How is this possible? Because in PA, people charged with the lesser crime of impaired driving are not entitled to a jury trial. In Arizona, the legislature passed the same type of law that eliminates a person’s right to a jury trial. Now we are going to see similar situations in Phoenix.

Jessica Trump, the individual in question who was convicted by the judge, had her day in court. The jury considered the credibility of witnesses who said that Ms. Trump was the passenger in a vehicle and not the driver. Even the police officer conceded that he could not be sure that Ms. Trump was the driver. Her peers considered all of the evidence put forward to them, and then found that she was not guilty.

The judge heard exactly the same evidence, considered virtually the identical set of circumstances, and determined that she should go to jail for the DUI that the jury thought she didn’t do. Remember, this wasn’t a he said, she said. This was a case where three witnesses said that Trump wasn’t the driver. One witness wasn’t sure. The judge said, “Guilty.” Naturally Ms. Trump’s DUI attorney went apoplectic. His protestations had little effect.

Here’s the problem with taking away a persons right to a jury trial. Judges get bored. They get used to sentencing defendants. They get a bit numb. A juror who shows up for jury duty is the exact opposite. For most jurors, this is a novel experience. Jurors listen to evidence through a different filter. They also bring a bit of, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Jurors hope that they will be extended the same treatment should they ever be arrested for a crime. I am afraid that judges just don’t see it the same way.

As a DUI attorney in Phoenix, I have to say that there are many judges who are great on the bench. But is this a risk that we want to take? Will we lose our rights and say nothing? I hope that you never find yourself in the position of Ms. Trump.

DUI Lawyer Nick Alcock practices in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached at 602-989-5000

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