DWI Jury Selection:
Jury selection maybe the most important part of a jury trial. When done correctly, it can set up your case for a verdict of not guilty. When done without planning or proper analysis, jury selection can be disastrous.
For instance, if you are charged with animal cruelty, then the last thing you want to see is Snoopy, Scooby Doo, Astro, and other jurors who are sympathetic to the prosecution sitting in the jury box. So how do we avoid this? With preparation and planning.
Purpose of Post:
This post provides an overview of DWI Jury selection in misdemeanor prosecutions in Texas state courts, i.e., DWI-1st and DWI-2nd prosecutions. Actual jury selection will depend on the facts of your case. This post and blog are not intended as legal advice. It is IMPORTANT that you speak with a qualified and experienced DWI Attorney before making any decision on your case.
Two important goals of jury selection are: (1) identify favorable and unfavorable jurors; and (2) educate the panel on the theory of your case.
[Note–there are multiple goals in jury selection–but these are the ones I focus on in DWI Defense cases for a variety of reasons including time limitations by the court.] For more information on jury selection in general–I recommend you visit Robert Hirschorn’s website, who is the master of the art and science of jury selection.
One final thought–jury selection is as much art as it is science. Your lawyer–indeed all lawyers–should know the law of the case they are working on. But jury trials carry an intangible human component that is unique. In addition to knowing the law, the best trial lawyers in America know how to tell your story to a jury.
In Bexar County, Texas, courts typically give prosecutors and defense attorneys between 20-30 minutes each to conduct jury selection ( voir dire). Because time is limited, it is extremely important for defense counsel to target his questions towards the goals of jury selection: (1) identify favorable/unfavorable jurors; and (2) offer an alternate explanation of why your client was not intoxicated (theory of the case).
A party can challenge a witness for cause for several reasons: (a) statutory disqualifications under Chapter 62.102 of the Government Code; (b) affinity of the juror with the case, party, or witness-chapter 62.105 of Government Code and (c) for bias and prejudice–see Chapter 35.15 of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Defense counsel also gets three peremptory (Article 35.15 Texas Code of Criminal Procedure) challenges in Bexar County, Texas misdemeanor court. These are challenges that can be used without assigning a reason. They are invaluable and should be used wisely.
For instance, a potential juror is not disqualified for cause, but for some reason the juror is not favorable to your client–i.e., potential juror rolls eyes at your client, gives him/her dirty looks, is very prosecutor friendly–the reasons are infinite.
Areas of Inquiry:
The areas of inquiry will vary from case to case. But defense counsel should inquire about the following in misdemeanor DWI prosecutions: (1) defendant’s right not to testify; (2) the burden of proof in criminal prosecutions; (3) presumption of innocence; (4) innocent explanations for poor performance on standard field sobriety tests; and (5) issues with breath and blood alcohol testing.
Jury selection is a critical part of a jury trial that plays an important role in the outcome of the case. If you are arrested for a misdemeanor (or felony) DWI offense, then it is important that you speak with an experienced DWI Attorney who will properly asses the strengths and weaknesses of your case and has the skill set to successfully defend you at trial.
Genaro R. Cortez