What is Voir Dire?
Voir Dire or Jury Selection is the process of selecting a jury for a DUI jury trial. In DUI cases in Washington in District Court and Municipal Court there is a pool of approximately 20-25 persons who come into the court for jury selection and only 6-7 will be selected for the jury. In District and Municipal Courts there are 6 jurors that take the case back for deliberation after closing argument, if there was a 7th person, that person was an alternate. An alternate juror is seated with the jury and hears the case all the way through summation (closing argument) but does not go back and deliberate with the remaining jurors.
The process of voir dire (French, derived from Latin meaning to speak the truth) is an integral element to our judicial system. It is the process of selecting persons from the jury pool who are free of bias. The lawyers for each party (plaintiff who is the State/City in a DUI case and Defendant) are allowed to question each person from the jury pool for potential selection onto the jury. Conversely, many persons will not be elected to sit on the jury. Each party in District or Municipal Court is allowed to exercise three peremptory challenges and unlimited challenges for cause. A peremptory challenge is a party excluding a particular juror candidate for any reason except race or gender. Challenges for cause are made by either party on jury candidates based upon a clear bias.
As a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer, I have conducted numerous voir dires and will admit it is the most crucial part of any jury trial. In voir dire pretty much nothing is off limits to discuss, except for specific facts of the case. Jurors are allowed to communicate with the lawyers as much as the lawyers ask questions of the jurors. It is an opportunity to get to know about people's beliefs and understanding of the law.
As a DUI defense attorney, selecting a potential candidate for selection onto a jury is critical. The DUI lawyer must understand what type of individual will be most understanding of the issues at hand while keeping an open mind. I can tell you from personal experience that comparing a cop to a citizen when determining credibility is challenging (if a cop says it is true, then it must be true right?). Many jurors have that underlying belief, it is the DUI attorney's job to make sure a jury is selected who will keep an open mind despite the charge.
I have seen prosecutors conduct voir dire numerous times and some are good and some are very bad. Jurors are very critical of attorneys so it is extremely important to try and establish credibility during this first interaction. Judges will tell young lawyers, this is not the place to build up some sort of connection or attempt to establish some camaraderie with these people but to eliminate bias and select a jury free from preconceived ideologies.
Your Seattle DUI Attorney had better be well versed in conducting jury selection or else you may have lost before you have begun. Contact a seasoned DUI attorney today at (425) 522-4200 so that you can have the most effective representation possible.