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Reasonable Doubt and DUI Trials


Many defendants charged with drunk driving in California do not have an obvious defense but are nevertheless in a situation where they must do everything they can to avoid a DUI conviction. The obvious example would be a defendant whose career is at stake if he is convicted. In these circumstances it is often necessary to take the case to jury trial and effectively examine each and every point of evidence with a view to establishing reasonable doubt.

Even when the evidence against a defendant appears to be strong, prosecutors sometimes encounter unexpected difficulties at trial and struggle to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. Complex issues of evidence and science may arise that require expert handling from an experienced DUI and Criminal Trial Lawyer in Los Angeles.

In any criminal case, the Prosecution bears the burden of proving each element of the case beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is defined as proof that leaves the jury with an abiding conviction that the allegation is true. The evidence does not need to eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some possible doubt.

In my closing argument I like to tell the jury that if they feel that the defendant may be guilty, they must acquit. If they think the defendant is likely to be guilty, they must acquit. If they think that the defendant is probably guilty, they must, nevertheless acquit. Only if they are sure beyond all reasonable doubt, may they find the defendant guilty.

DUI lawyers in Los Angeles have their favourite examples that they give to the jury to illustrate the serious burden the prosecutor bears of proving the case. I try to make the jury feel that it is their job to find my client not guilty and if they do they will go home feeling good about themselves. I tell them that they will feel awful if they go home feeling that they may have found an innocent person guilty.

Prosecutors like to ask jurors to use their common sense. I tell them that this is not about common sense, but about critical thinking. Take the following example; As a parent you would feel comfortable allowing your child to skate on an indoor skating arena. However, if your child wanted to skate on a frozen lake, you would want to use critical thinking to establish the depth of the ice and whether the conditions were safe, given that the life of your child might be at risk. Most parents would decide that if there is any doubt as to the safety of the ice, even if it is probably OK, their child should be prevented from skating on it. I tell the jury that there is a lot at stake for the defendant and that he is entitled to the same critical thinking and level of caution in considering the evidence.

Nigel Witham of Gold & Witham has many years of experience as a Criminal Trial Lawyer and concentrates on defending DUI cases in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. You can reach him at 562 938 7771.