A little known or talked about part of any DWI trial are the jury instructions. Jury instructions are the final admonitions by the judge in a trial that gives members of a jury guidance on how to make their decisions. They are intended to be simple, succinct summaries of the law that should be applied in a given case.
Jury instructions are important in DWI trials for several reasons. First, due to public education campaigns and widespread media attention about DWIs, any jury pool comes into a case with preconceived notions about what is and is not a DWI. In fact, just say the word DWI and some jury members will be ready to convict. A jury instruction from a judge can do a lot to help jurors get over their prejudices and make a correct decision.
Another reason that jury instructions are important in DWI cases is due to the nature of how DWI evidence is collected. A DWI trial cannot take place unless a police officer interacted with a suspect in some way. Almost always that entails a police officer pulling a driver over, searching a car, conducting tests, and even taking chemical samples. All of those activities are regulated by U.S. and Constitutional rights. When the police breach those rights, they should not be allowed to use evidence they take.
A jury instruction on legality of a police search was at the center of a recent Texas DWI appeals case. In that case, the appellant was convicted by a jury of DWI. After the conviction the man challenged the fact that the judge in that case denied his request for a particular jury instruction. His argument was that if the jury instruction had been given, the jury would have ruled differently.
The jury instruction at issue was from Texas Criminal Jury Instruction Article 38.23(a). That instruction is used when there is a dispute about how evidence was collected in a given case. When the dispute is whether the evidence is in violation of U.S. or Texas constitutional provision, the jury is asked to resolve the dispute. Typically this is an argument made in front of a judge, but in some cases when there is a factual dispute, the jury is asked to decide.
Unfortunately for this man, the appellate court did not agree with his argument. The case underscores an important point: that every aspect of a DWI trial must be handled by an experienced, professional advocate. At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm our entire practice is dedicated to knowing and defending the rights of those accused of committing crimes. We examine each detail of a case to ensure that your case is given the attention and care it deserves.
If you have been charged with a DWI in the Dallas area, contact us. We will go over your case with you, talk about your options, and develop a plan to get you the best result possible in your case.