One Voir Dire Technique in a DUI Defense Trial

Posted on April 3, 2014

Court Room

To some extent, you and your Redwood City DUI defense attorney are at a disadvantage when it comes to the jury. This is in part because of the increased media coverage these days of how damaging driving while under the influence can be. Your attorney can help your defense by getting jurors to see things from the defendant’s perspective, and there is no better place to begin this than in jury selection.

Purpose of the Jury Selection Process

Each side in a DUI case has the right to question and challenge a certain number of potential jurors during voir dire. The purpose of this process is ostensibly to seat a jury that is as impartial as possible. In practice, both the prosecution and defense try to weed out jurors that seem particularly biased against their side.

Questioning Jurors About Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are often performed when a suspected drunk driver is pulled over. The rationale is that since a person’s agility is hindered when he is legally drunk, testing for this at the scene of the stop is a good way of measuring intoxication. The truth of the matter is somewhat different, however. Many things can affect a person’s ability to walk a straight line or stand on one foot for 30 seconds. Among these are:

  • Sloped shoulder of the road;
  • Darkness;
  • Inclement weather;
  • Objects such as stones and debris that are in the way;
  • Nervousness of the individual being tested;
  • Flashing lights; and
  • Health issues.

When your Redwood City DUI defense lawyer questions prospective jurors during voir dire, he may then choose to ask specific jurors questions about the field sobriety process, particularly if test performance was the main reason for the arrest.

Your attorney may select a juror, for instance, and ask her to imagine being pulled over late at night, with lights flashing, cars driving by and having the officer ask her to stand on one leg for thirty seconds. Does the juror think she could do this? Would she be afraid?

Your attorney can also ask a juror, “If you were to create a test to test a person’s balance, would you have them stand on one leg and look down or look ahead?” He might then proceed with, “If you wished to see if the person could walk straight, would you have them walk with their arms at their sides or extended?”

The purpose of such questions is to try to get jurors to have empathy for the defendant. Even though one juror might be asked the question, indeed, the other jurors will be listening and may be more inclined toward fairness toward the defendant.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you were arrested for driving under the influence, it is essential that you hire a Redwood City DUI defense attorney who will fight for you. Call Silveira Law today at (415) 795-3890.