You have made the hard but right decision to fight your DWI charge. After a period of pretrial negotiations, motions, and hearings, a trial is just around the corner. Like most things in life, preparing for the trial is your first and most effective form of defense. Everything during that trial will revolve around you, so everything you do must be prepared and thoughtful. The trial is your means to defend you. It is your means to an acquittal. It is your means of safeguarding your future and everything that matters to you. Your attorney, the person who will be guiding you through the process, is the one who will help you prepare. As such, your attorney is the key to a successful trial.
Doug Murphy, a Board Certified DWI defense lawyer and a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer, pursues each DWI case with the expectation it will go to trial. He is not someone who likes to take plea deals unless they result in the best possible result. He knows how important a clean criminal record is for most of his clients, and he wants to keep it that way. So, he goes to trial. He fights for your freedom. He fights for your good name. And because his trial experience is vast, his experience preparing clients is just as vast. Here, he provides some insight into the process of preparing yourself for a DWI trial.
Texas DWI Trial: What You Should Expect
Your DWI trial will not be the first time you have been in front of the judge or in the courtroom. You appeared in court for the arraignment hearing and probably other hearings on any pretrial motions, like:
- Motions to Dismiss for lack of probable cause
- Motions to Suppress illegally obtained evidence, or -- among others --
- Motions to Exclude a witness' testimony.
But the trial is different in that it is the first time (for first-offenders at least) you will confront a jury -- if you choose a jury trial (as opposed to a bench trial where the judge hears the case or a plea deal where you plead guilty or no contest usually in exchange for a reduced charge and/or lighter sentence). With Doug Murphy, he prepares each case for a jury trial because he knows -- from experience -- trial is your best means to securing a winning outcome. A jury trial is where you get to make your case, challenge breath and blood test results, confront witnesses and the police officers, and pretty much weaken the State's case against you. And after that has been done, you are in the best position for an acquittal.
Here's what to expect during your DWI Trial in Harris County:
- Jury Selection. This is when the jury is selected and is also known as voir dire. A jury is a group of 6 people who hear the evidence if the case is a DWI misdemeanor or 12 people from the community if the case is a DWI felony. Jurors are the ones who will determine your fate. Doug Murphy takes jury selection seriously and does so aggressively. His goal is to find those jurors most amenable to acquittal -- the latter of which is Doug Murphy's goal of voir dire.
- Opening Statements. Both the prosecutor and defense attorney provide an overview of their arguments.
- The State of Texas' Case. The State presents its case, including direct examination of witnesses. The defense counter cross-examines the State's witnesses.
- The Defendant's Case. The Defense presents its case, including cross-examination of witnesses. The State counter cross-examines the defense's witnesses.
- Closing Arguments. The prosecutor and defense attorney have their last opportunity to persuade the jury during closing arguments. This concludes the trial. Unfortunately, the prosecutor always gets that last word in closing arguments.
- Jury Instructions and Verdict. The judge provides instructions to the jury identifying the elements of the case and what must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of DWI. Between the time the instructions and the verdict, the jury deliberates and then the verdict is read.
Harris County DWI Trial: How to Prepare for Your DWI Trial
Preparing for your trial is important, especially if you and your attorney have decided you will testify. There are a number of things you can do to prepare for trial, some are pretrial activities to build your case while others are preparations for how you will actually perform during trial.
DWI Pre-trial Preparations
Pre-trial preparations are activities and things to do to demonstrate to the jury and/or judge you take drinking and driving seriously. These things are not required and will only be recommended under certain circumstances These things are used to leverage your position and character before the jury and/or judge.
- You may want to have an alcohol assessment completed. You may want to get this done if the evidence against you is particularly strong and/or you already have a DWI or other alcohol-related charge or conviction against you.
- Start alcohol classes if the alcohol assessment recommends it. If you participate in an alcohol assessment and a recommendation emanating from the same suggests alcohol classes, then you will want to start them as soon as possible.
- Go to AA meetings. Only if there is a real or strong suggestion that you may have an alcohol addiction, start AA classes. Again, this kind of preparation will likely only be required if you actually do have an alcohol addiction or problem. For most of you, however, you don't. Drinking and driving was just a mistake, a one-time thing.
- You will want to abide by any terms or conditions of bail. This means abstaining from any criminal activities or drug and alcohol consumption, abiding by curfew or driving restrictions, attending any program or treatment meetings, and/or appearing and arriving on time at all court hearings where your appearance is required.
Again, these are just examples of some things your attorney may have you do to prepare for trial. Doug Murphy will only recommend them if the situation calls for it. No need to go out and do this now because in some cases, some of these “preparations” could work against you. For instance, if your claim is that you were not legally intoxicated and do not have any kind of substance abuse problem, then you don't want to go to AA meetings, but you might want to have an alcohol assessment completed anyway to prove the same. Every case is different, and every jurisdiction is different. The facts of the case and your history will dictate what Doug recommends to his clients depending on those factors.
DWI Trial Preparations
Trial preparations are things you can practice or activate once the trial has begun. These preparations are meant in part to nurture the jury's opinion favorably of you. You need to prepare yourself so that the following manifests during trial, and often this is done via practice with your attorney or his or her legal team.
- You should be likable. Your attorney can attest to how important this is. You do not want the jury not to like you or to be neutral about you. You want -- need -- them to like you. Much of what happens in a trial is subjective, and much of how a jury decides a case is based on that subjectivity. To be like-able is more about what not to do: offer no grimaces; do not whine during testimony; do not swear or talk in a disagreeable manner; be serious but not unapproachable.
- Dress for the occasion. This is a trial, not a day out at the park. You do not need to wear a suit, but wear something considered business professional. By dressing the part it does two things: (1) shows you are serious about these charges; and (2) insinuates you are an outstanding member of society, not someone who is lazy or the like and thus deserves a conviction and jail time.
- Tell your story. If you testify, it is your job to make sure your full story is told. If you do not testify, it is your lawyer's job to tell your story as to Who are you? What actually happened? Are you not just like any other member of the community? You are the juror, and the juror can sympathize with that. On the other hand, the antagonist -- often the police officers -- are unlike community members; police officers believe themselves to be above the law even though the law contradicts this belief.
- Look the jurors in the eye. Don't hide your face -- that's the characteristic of a guilty person. Believe your story and make sure the jury believes it, too -- look them in the eye. You will need to have confidence in a completely uncomfortable situation. Some people are just shy to do it, but the jury won't know that. You don't want to stare. But you do want to look at jurors naturally. If you are upset, don't look at them because they'll be able to read it. If you are intent on what you are saying, feel free to look at them as you express it. Most of this applies only if you take the stand to testify on your own behalf. But even when you are sitting beside your lawyer, your personality and likeability must come through, and the best way to persuade the jurors of this is via natural eye contact. This is exactly the training that police officers receive on how to testify by prosecutors and other police officers.
Houston, TX DWI: Where to Find the Best DWI Trial Lawyer for You
If you have been charged with a DWI or DWI-related crime and intend to fight it, then you need the experience and insight of someone who commits himself to fighting DWI, even if that means a trial. Doug Murphy is fearless when it comes to facing law enforcement, the State, and the judge. In fact, he welcomes it. Far too much, ordinary citizens are harassed by the police during traffic stops. He is here to fight. If you are ready to fight. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at (713) 229-8333.