November 8, 2023 | OVI/DUI
Selecting a jury is an integral part of any OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence) trial. The process can significantly shape the course and, ultimately, the outcome of your case.
While the evidence presented in an OVI case matters tremendously, it’s not just what you present but to whom. The individuals that make up your jury are tasked with interpreting the evidence – which largely comes from their own experiences.
Factors such as personal experiences with law enforcement or negative associations with alcohol or drugs could sway opinions one way or another, which could be detrimental to your DUI defense.
What is Voir Dire?
Voir dire is essentially the act of questioning potential jurors. This is generally done by attorneys for both sides, though the judge will sometimes ask questions as well.
The main purpose of voir dire is to select jurors and weed out individuals who might have biases or prejudices that could affect their ability to consider the evidence impartially.
Choosing Jurors – Strikes
During jury selection, attorneys hold the power to dismiss certain jurors. Lawyers can strike potential jurors “for cause” if they can demonstrate to the judge that a juror has a prejudice or bias, making them incapable of rendering an impartial judgment.
Additionally, each attorney has a limited number of “peremptory challenges.” In misdemeanor cases, you are allowed three peremptory strikes, and in felony cases, four. This means excluding particular individuals without providing any reason.
Striking a Juror For Cause Isn’t That Easy
Striking a potential juror for cause is more challenging than you might initially think; judges don’t dismiss jurors lightly. Valid reasons must be provided to convince the judge of an existing bias or prejudice that will likely interfere with the person’s ability to make objective evaluations.
Even if a potential juror indicates they have been victimized by a drunk driver, expressing that they’re still able to render an impartial verdict means they won’t automatically be stricken for cause.
A judge can keep the person in the jury pool if they believe in their ability to overcome personal biases and make clear-headed decisions based on evidence.
Important Questions to Ask When Choosing a Jury for an OVI Case
The aim when selecting members of a jury is to get an unbiased panel that will evaluate your DUI case fairly based on the presented evidence. Here’s why certain types of questions are essential during voir dire:
Ask About Connections With Law Enforcement
Inquiring about connections with law enforcement is critical during the voir dire process. Potential jurors who are active or retired law enforcement officers or have relatives in the police force could possibly harbor biases favoring officers and their testimonies.
OVI evidence and conclusions predominantly come from law enforcement, making any bias in favor of police very damaging for the defendant.
Ask Questions About Drunk Driving Accidents
Questioning whether there are any personal experiences with drunk driving during voir dire is also essential. This means examining whether the potential juror or someone they know has been a victim of a drunk driver.
Such an experience could bring up strong negative thoughts and emotions toward the defendant in an OVI case, making the potential juror incapable of objectively evaluating the case.
Ask About Their Experience of Drinking and Driving
Asking a juror whether they’ve driven under the influence or after they thought they might have had a little too much to drink can be telling.
People are naturally inclined to say no in order not to admit such risky behavior publicly. However, keep an eye on their reactions while answering – hesitations or signs of discomfort may suggest otherwise.
Certain ways they phrase their answer might indicate that they understand that sometimes it happens. Other answers might make it clear that the juror has an extremely negative view of those who drink and drive.
These subtle hints in their response can offer additional insight into prospective jurors and their potential biases or experiences relevant to the case.
A Dayton DUI Defense Attorney Can Help With the Voir Dire Process
Your lawyer is going to be the one doing the actual questioning of the jurors. However, you will be in the room and can have input into the decision as well, so it’s crucial that you understand how to make the best choices for your case. If you need help, contact us to schedule your free consultation.
Contact the Dayton DUI Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402