Those Charged With DWI Fare Best With Non-Jury Trials?

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

After being charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) there may be many questions: What do I do now? Will I lose my license? How do I fight the charges?

While the answers to these questions may vary, based on which attorney you speak with, new statistics show that seeking a non-jury trial in Monroe County may be one of the best ways to fight the charges faced.

Based on statistics obtained from Monroe County by the Democrat and Chronicle, those accused of DWI receive lesser penalties if they choose to fight the charges at a trial before a judge (or non-jury trial). While the statistics shows that there is a 73 percent conviction rate for DWI in Monroe County, the statistics also show that, of the 1,595 non-jury misdemeanor DWI trials in the past four years, those accused were found guilty of the charges in about 15 percent of the non-jury trials.

While the statistics seem to suggest that all DWI cases should be taken to non-jury trial, DWI defense attorneys suggest that many of the cases that go to non-jury trial are the weaker cases that are not resolved by guilty plea. The Democrat and Chronicle reports that the number of cases that go to non-jury trial are about one-seventh the number of cases that are resolved by guilty plea. This appears to indicate that, often, the stronger the case that the prosecution has, the less likely the case will go to non-jury trial.

But, it is also suggested that a judge is more receptive to the idea of a margin of error in breath tests. Meaning that if a person who is accused of having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 may be within the margin of error and thus not legally intoxicated, which means the prosecution has then not proven the elements of the DWI charge. If you have been charged with DWI based on a blood alcohol level of near 0.08, it may be in your best interests to seek a non-jury trial, but be sure to discuss this option at length with your attorney.

Another possibility for the low percentage of non-jury trial convictions may be New York's mandatory installation of ignition-interlock devices in the vehicles of those found guilty of DWI. Some speculate that if a judge, who would otherwise find the accused guilty of the DWI charge, fears the mandatory ignition-interlock device is not appropriate for the accused, the judge may then find the accused guilty of a lesser charge, such as driving while ability impaired (DWAI).

Do not let the percentage of those found guilty of DWI at non-jury trial be the sole reason for opting for a non-jury trial when facing DWI charges. However, statistically, it may be in your favor to fight the DWI charges against you at a non-jury trial. If you face charges for DWI, it is of the utmost importance to discuss the DWI charges and specific facts of your situation with an experienced DWI defense attorney. An attorney can help you explore your options and provide you with counsel as to what your best options may be to avoid a conviction or jail time.