Jury Instructions

Jury InstructionsIn a DUI / DWI trial, as in all criminal trials, the jury takes an oath to follow the law. That law is given to the jury in the form of jury instructions. The judge typically reads the instructions out loud and gives jurors a printed copy. Some judges give jury instructions before attorneys’ closing arguments, and some issue instructions just before the jury retires to deliberate.

In California, these instructions come from CALJIC, or California Jury Instructions, Criminal – the law that is to be applied in criminal cases. In addition to the CALJIC instructions, lawyers also are allowed to submit their own proposed jury instructions which are tailored to the specific facts of their case. An experienced California drunk driving attorney will use this opportunity to submit instructions that will advance the client’s case.

Outside of the presence of the jury, the judge and the attorneys will confer about the instructions to be given to the jury. Often the prosecutor wants specific instructions to which the defense objects, and vice-versa. Each side argues about any objections to the instructions, and the judge then rules on whether or not the instruction should be included.

One critical jury instruction employed by experienced California DUI lawyers is CALJIC No. 224 on circumstantial evidence. It reads as follows:

Circumstantial Evidence: Sufficiency of Evidence

Before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to conclude that a fact necessary to find the defendant guilty has been proved, you must be convinced that the People have proved each fact essential to that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty, you must be convinced that the only reasonable conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the defendant is guilty. If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept the one that points to innocence. However, when considering circumstantial evidence, you must accept only reasonable conclusions and reject any that are unreasonable.

In other words, the instruction states that in a case supported by circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The instruction further states that if circumstantial evidence points to more than one conclusion, the jury must accept the conclusion that points to the defendant’s innocence.

This jury instruction can be used to cast doubt on every piece of circumstantial evidence in the prosecutor’s case. A skilled DUI / DWI defense lawyer will submit specific jury instructions that will help the defendant advance his or her case, and point jurors toward a verdict of not guilty.

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