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A Guide to Jury Selection for North Carolina DWI Trials
If you have been charged with DWI or another criminal offense in North Carolina, you may be feeling overwhelmed and confused about how this process will unfold. The prospect of a criminal trial can seem daunting, however, understanding each stage can help it feel more manageable in moving forward. You will notice that throughout this process having a lawyer is greatly helpful (and, in many cases, critical) to navigating the process and ensuring that your rights are protected and that your interests are represented at each stage.
In North Carolina, if you are convicted of a crime you are entitled to choose between a bench trial or a jury trial. A bench trial is held in front of a judge without a jury. A jury trial is held in front of 12 jurors. While a lawyer can advise you on the best course of action for your particular case, a bench trial is generally advantageous in limited circumstances, such as when your defense rests on motions related to the legality of the stop or errors in the arrest procedure that can be easily ruled on. However, in the vast majority of cases it benefits the defendant to hear their case heard on the merits by a jury. If just one juror votes to acquit you it will result in a hung jury. In the event of a hung jury, the state must start the entire process over again. Generally, they will offer a lesser charge instead of choosing to go through another costly trial and risk arriving at the same outcome. Even in cases where no jurors vote to acquit, it still gives you a greater chance for success in most circumstances.
The role of a juror is to objectively and fairly assess the case before them. Jurors are selected through a process known as voir dire. Potential jurors are randomly selected. The judge then has the opportunity to ask them a series of questions to assess their ability to be unbiased throughout the trial process. These questions are designed to determine if any conflicts of interest exist that would prevent the juror from being unbiased. For instance, if a juror is related to or has a close relationship to one of the parties or attorneys in the case they would be unlikely to remain unbiased. The judge will dismiss any jurors that appear to have a bias. The lawyers for each party then also have an opportunity to question the jurors to determine whether there is any reason why the jurors could not be fair and impartial in assessing your case. This process can make or break your case, so having an experienced trial attorney who can ensure the jury is as fair and favorable toward you as possible is critical.
Talk to a North Carolina DWI Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with DWI or another criminal offense in North Carolina, the best thing you can do is contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Coastal South Law as soon as possible. Call today to schedule your consultation and find out how they can help you mount the best defense possible.