Voir Dire: How to Use It To Win DUI Trial
Voir Dire is a process to approve jurors or an expert witness for trial. If you don’t think an expert witness knows information that is relevant for your trial, you can question the witness to see if he is knowledgeable about the area of his expertise, and if he is not, ask the judge not to allow him to testify at trial.
Voir Dire for jurors is used to choose the best jurors for the trial. For the trial, you would want to pick jurors who would be will be friendly or neutral to your case and not biased for any reason against the facts or the parties: you would want them to be fair. Usually, during voir dire, the parties in the lawsuit would talk to the jurors regarding their experiences and after completing the “voir dire” inform the judge if the potential juror is acceptable or not for your case. If you do not like a juror you can ask the judge to exclude him. There are two types of “excluding”. First, for cause, and second as a peremptory challenge, where you do not have to explain the reason. Removing a juror for a cause cannot be based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., but can be based on the inability of the juror to communicate or understand the facts presented at trial or being actually biased against a party or witness. Removing as a peremptory challenge does not require an explanation but it is limited in number. The number and the peremptory challenge process are controlled by the California Code of Civil Procedure 231 and the number is currently, limited to 20 peremptory challenges for very serious cases where a potential sentence is life in prison, 6 for cases where the potential punishment is less than 90 days in jail, and 10 for all the remaining cases. This means that if you are charged with a DUI in Los Angeles you are most likely entitled to 10 peremptory challenges. If you are charged with a felony in Los Angeles, you are most likely entitled to 10 peremptory challenges.
During voir dire attorneys will ask the jurors about their bias. For example, during a DUI trial attorney can ask if anyone was affected by a DUI in the past. When a trial court disallowed questions that would uncover racial biases, the court of appeals reversed the conviction holding that the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing such questions (People v. Wells (149 Cal App 3d 721).
An opening statement for Voir Dire is allowed – however, it cannot be argumentative. California Code of Civil Procedure 222.5 governs how Voir Dire of jurors should be conducted. First, the judge starts asking jurors various questions about their bias. Prior to voir dire, both sides can submit additional questions to the judge to consider for trial. Under California Civil Procedure 222.5(b), after the initial voir dire by the judge, both parties can examine the jurors for as long as the judge decided proper. Some judges will allow unlimited time for void dire in criminal cases, other will limit it to 30 minutes. ‘
A Supreme Court Case of People v. Landry 2 Cal.5th 52 said that “it is not the purpose of voir dire to educate the jury panel to the particular facts of the case, to compel the jurors to commit themselves to vote a particular way, to prejudice jury for or against a particular party, to argue the case, to indoctrinate the jury or instruct the jury in the matters of law“.
Thus, is the prosecutor during voir dire talks about the facts of the DUI arrest, an objection should be raised based on People v. Landry. Prosecutor saying in voir dire say that “he does not have to prove that a person was drunk”, also violates the voir dire rules and an objection to “improper voir dire” must be raised.
For any specific questions about your Los Angeles Criminal Case or DUI in Los Angeles please call our office directly at (818) 921-7744