Most DUI Cases in Virginia Are Handled by a General District Court Judge
The nature of a DUI violation in Virginia makes this a very rare subject for jury trials. The fact is that you are only entitled to a jury trial for DUI in Virginia if you appeal a “guilty” ruling already handed down by a general district court judge. And, your defense attorney will recommend a jury trial only if there is a preponderance of evidence in your favor. Most of the time, the state has a relatively “open and shut” case, which can make a jury trial an expensive, and foolhardy, proposition.
The Sheer Volume of Virginia DUI Cases Makes a Jury Trial Unlikely
Being convicted of a DUI charge can have a profound effect on your life, not only giving you a permanent criminal record but also making it difficult to find a job or obtain a mortgage, even years after the event. For this reason, many people who have been accused of DUI naively believe that they are entitled to a jury trial, when in fact their cases are decided (at least in the first go-round) by an administrative judge, if they even progress that far.
The fact is that hundreds of motorists are charged with DUI in Virginia every month. If each of these individuals were automatically entitled to a jury trial, the state’s court system would be overwhelmed. Instead, most DUI cases involving adult drivers are settled behind the scenes between the district attorney and the defense attorney. If the attorneys can't come to terms, a judgment is handed down by a general district court judge (without recourse to a jury). What this means, of course, is that the state can process numerous cases in a single day, and given the right circumstances, an aggressive DUI defense lawyer can plead down the charge so as to obtain the least possible penalty.
If you (and your lawyer) are still dissatisfied by the “guilty” verdict of the general district court judge, the state entitles you to a jury trial in circuit court. You should bear in mind, however, that trials can be expensive propositions, and your case won't necessarily fare any better with a jury than it did with the original judge. As a general rule, you should only pursue a jury trial if you have a reasonable chance of winning your case—and if the state's blood-alcohol test results are rock solid, you probably won't have a happy outcome.
If You Do Choose to Go to Trial, You Need an Experienced Defense Attorney
At the law firm of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC, our Virginia DUI defense attorneys are experienced at dealing with district attorneys and general circuit court judges, and know what it takes to present a convincing case to a circuit court judge and jury. Call 888-793-9701 today for a free consultation.