Facing a DUI charge in Arizona is serious business. A conviction can be life-changing, so you must protect yourself by all means available. Does this mean that you should request a jury trial?

In Arizona, you have the right to request a jury trial when facing a DUI. This is true for all types of DUI charges—from first-time misdemeanor DUIs to felony DUIs involving accidents and other aggravating factors. But, while there can be several benefits to having your case heard by a jury, having a judge decide your fate (in a “bench trial”) can have benefits as well.

So, which option should you choose?

5 Reasons to Request a Jury Trial in Your Arizona DUI Case

There are several reasons why you might want to choose a jury trial for your DUI case in Arizona. With that said, it is important to keep in mind that every jury is different—and this means that juries are inherently unpredictable. As a result, you need to make an informed decision based on the unique facts of your case, and you will want to rely on the advice of an experienced DUI defense lawyer who has been there many times before.

Some of the reasons why you might want to exercise your right to a jury trial include:

1. The Jury Must Reach a Unanimous Verdict to Convict You

In Arizona, for a jury to convict its decision must be unanimous. Depending on the specific type of DUI charge you are facing, this means that anywhere from 6 to 12 members of the general public will need to agree that you deserve to face the life-altering consequences of a conviction. If the jury can’t reach a unanimous verdict, the judge will be forced to declare a mistrial, and the prosecutor’s office will need to decide if it is worth trying your case again.

2. You Get to Play a Role in Selecting the Jury

When you exercise your right to a jury trial in an Arizona DUI case, you get to play a role in selecting the jury. This is a key step in the process, and it is strongly in your best interests to have an experienced DUI defense lawyer manage the jury selection process on your behalf.

3. Jurors Might Be More Sympathetic to Your Situation

In many (but not all) cases, jurors will be more sympathetic than a judge. They will understand that you made a mistake, and they will imagine themselves in your shoes. As a result, they will be hesitant to convict unless they are absolutely certain that rendering a guilty verdict is the right thing to do.

4. You Can Still Ask the Judge to Rule in Your Favor

After the prosecution presents its case, you (or your lawyer) can ask the judge to acquit based on a lack of evidence. When you request a jury trial, this effectively gives you two bites at the apple. The judge will assess whether the prosecution’s evidence is sufficient to meet its burden of proof; and, if the judge decides that the prosecution’s evidence is sufficient, you will still have a chance for the jury to rule in your favor based on all of the evidence presented.

5. Jury Trials Present More Potential Grounds for Appeal

Another reason to consider exercising your right to a jury trial is that jury trials present more potential grounds for appeal. Simply put, there is more that can go wrong, and this means that you may have more grounds to argue that your conviction was unjust.

5 Reasons Not to Request a Jury Trial in Your Arizona DUI Case

That covers five of the main reasons to consider exercising your right to a jury trial in your Arizona DUI case. Now, why might you choose a bench trial instead?

1. The Judge Won’t Be Swayed By Prosecutors’ Tactics

Just as your defense lawyer will try to play to the jurors’ emotions, prosecutors will try to play to the jurors’ emotions, too. A judge won’t be swayed by these types of tactics.

2. The Judge Will Be Familiar with the Legal Issues Involved in Your Case

DUI cases are complicated—especially in Arizona. Having a judge who is familiar with the law decide your fate could help ensure that you do not receive an unjust conviction.

3. The Judge Will Only Focus on Applying the Law to the Relevant Facts

While jurors who know nothing about Arizona’s DUI laws may focus on irrelevant facts or go with their “gut” instinct, a judge will only focus on applying the law to the relevant facts of your case. This could also help ensure that you receive a just outcome—if the law is in your favor.

4. The Judge Will Clearly Understand the Prosecution’s Burden of Proof

In this same vein, a judge will have a clear understanding of what it takes to prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In contrast, jurors could potentially (and unknowingly) apply a lower standard.

5. Bench Trials Are Generally Cheaper Than Jury Trials

Finally, a bench trial can be significantly cheaper than a jury trial. While you ultimately need to focus on doing what is best for yourself long-term, this may be a factor that you need to consider.

Which Option Is Best for You?

With all of these considerations in mind, which option is best for you? There is no single “right” answer. To decide whether you should request a jury trial (and to find out what DUI defenses you can assert in your case), you should speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Schedule a Free Initial DUI Defense Consultation at The Weingart Firm in Phoenix, AZ

Do you have questions about requesting a jury trial in your Arizona DUI case? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced DUI defense lawyer at The Weingart Firm, call 480-405-7922 or request an appointment online now.