Opening Statements

Opening StatementsOnce the jury is selected in a DUI / DWI criminal trial, both the defense attorney and the prosecutor have an opportunity to make an opening statement to the jury. Opening statements are an important stage in the trial, because it gives a drunk driving criminal defense attorney a chance to let the jury get to know the attorney and his or her client.

The prosecutor has the burden of proving the case, and is allowed to go first. After the prosecutor gives an opening statement, the criminal defense lawyer has the choice of giving his or her opening statement or waiting until after the prosecutor has concluded his case. Usually, the DUI defense lawyer will give their opening statement after the prosecutor, because it allows the jury to keep both sides in mind during the prosecutor’s case. This is a tactical decision on the part of a skilled DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney.

A criminal defense lawyer must give the jury something to keep in mind while the prosecutor makes his case, but cannot make any statements that cannot be delivered upon later. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon for the defense attorney to make a noncommittal opening. Often the defense attorney will merely ask jurors to keep an open mind until they have heard all of the evidence and begin their deliberations and remind them that the prosecutor has the burden of proving every element of the DUI / DWI case beyond a reasonable doubt.

It’s important to remind the jury of these issues, because jurors may initially believe that if a driver’s chemical test showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater, the driver must be guilty of DUI / DWI. However, this isn’t necessarily true. If the criminal defense attorney can convince jurors to keep an open mind and listen to all of the evidence before making a determination of guilt, a small battle is already won.

It is also important for the DUI defense lawyer to remind jurors that the defense does not have to prove anything. The defense attorney could call no witnesses and introduce no evidence at all of the defendant’s innocence, and if the prosecutor had not proved every element of the DUI case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must render a not guilty verdict.

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