In a case that reached the New Jersey Supreme Court for review, a defendant seeking to try his DWI case in front of a jury was denied that right. According to the published opinion, it was that man’s third time being charged for DWI, and he wanted to have his case tried before a jury because the penalties for DWI were very severe.
Under that state’s laws, after a third conviction of DWI, the person must serve a minimum sentence of 180 days in jail. In addition to that, the man faced a license suspension of 10 years, fines, and a requirement to use an ignition interlock device on his car. These are all serious consequences, and he wanted a jury of his peers to determine whether he should suffer them.
On appeal, the High Court denied his request. According to the laws in that state, a person facing six months of jail time or less is not entitled to a jury trial. That is the exact cutoff required by the U.S. Supreme Court in the loadstar case of Baldwin v. New York. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that cases involving petty offenses are not entitled to a jury trial under the U.S. Constitution.
The Right to a Jury Trial in Texas
The state of Texas governs the right to a jury trial differently than the federal and other state governments. In fact, the right to a trial by jury is protected in the Texas Constitution, and mentioned in no less than six sections. One of the major grievances of Texas in its declaration of independence was the fact that Mexico did not guarantee the right of a trial by jury.
Under the laws of Texas, an individual charged with DWI, misdemeanor or felony, is guaranteed the right to a trial by jury. Of course, the next logical question for anyone faced with a DWI in Texas is whether and why that would be the right choice in a case. Well there are at least a few considerations to make when facing that choice.
One of the first considerations is location and courtroom. An experienced attorney can help you understand what odds you face in a particular courtroom and with a particular jury pool. This is one of the key reasons why hiring the right attorney is so important to you and your case. It is invaluable experience like this that brings results in DWI trial cases.
Another important consideration is numbers. If a DWI case goes before a judge for decision, the prosecutor only has to convince one person of guilt in a case. But if the case goes before a jury, then the prosecutor must convince six people if it is a misdemeanor, and twelve if it is felony DWI. It comes down to the experience and advice that an attorney will provide you as you make the decision.
In the end, the decision of whether to try DWI charges in front of a judge or jury is yours to make. The attorney can advise and recommend, but the right to a jury trial remains with the defendant. If you are charged with a DWI, contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we will point you in the right direction for your case.