How a Hung Jury in Arizona DUI Trials Happen

by Aaron M. Black • August 14, 2020
Hung Juries in DUI Trials
Juries hearing Arizona DUI cases weigh the evidence but sometimes they reach an impasse in their deliberations, known as a “hung jury” or a “deadlocked” jury. When that happens they notify the judge of their dilemma.

In these situations judges have a duty to offer assistance to jurors in their deliberations to overcome the issues of their division and hopefully render a just verdict, but not to force them to reach a verdict. Judges send jurors back into the jury room to hammer out their differences so the time and expense in conducting a trial isn’t wasted.

After both sides have presented their views of the case, the jurors begin their work. During deliberations, jurors can ask the court legal and evidentiary questions. A juror has a duty to impartially consider the evidence, the facts of the case, witness statements and credibility, and the legal issues involved.

Jurors often have questions to clarify the instructions they were given and it’s possible they will be given additional instructions.

A juror discusses their view with other members of the jury panel and listen to what they have to say about the case presented. It’s fine for jurors to re-examine their views and it’s fine if a juror has a change of mind. But a juror shouldn’t change a vote based on the opinions of other jurors.

If jurors still can’t reach a unanimous vote for a verdict, the judge declares a mistrial. There are no repercussions for jury members. Attorneys for both sides may ask to talk to jurors to get feedback. That’s strictly voluntary for the juror. The prosecution, after learning the reasons the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, must decide whether to retry the case or dismiss the charges.

In Arizona, standard DUI cases have six jurors on the panel. If the vote is 5-1 to convict, the state probably will want to retry the case. If the vote was 5-1 for acquittal, the state may offer a plea deal to a lesser offense such as reckless driving.

Selecting jurors in DUI cases

Selecting Jurors for a DUI CaseA pool of potential jurors are selected at random from voter registration and driver’s license rolls and they receive a summons for jury duty. A juror must be at least 18, a U.S. citizen, and live in the court’s physical jurisdiction. Those who have been convicted of a felony are not eligible to serve on a jury unless their civil rights have been restored and those with mental competency issues can’t serve.

The potential jurors are escorted to the courtroom for questioning by attorneys for the state and defense, which is called Voir Dire. They’re asked about their background, prejudices, beliefs, and if they have any type of relationship with anyone involved in the case at hand. Attorneys can exclude potential jurors they think are likely to vote a certain way.

Defense preparations for a jury trial

In preparing for trial, a DUI defense attorney’s goal is to win an acquittal, but a jury that’s deadlocked is the second best result and much better than a conviction.

Law enforcement has a high bar in proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt and the defense works toward establishing reasonable doubt. This can be accomplished by conducting an independent investigation and probing the state’s case for flaws in collecting evidence and in operating procedures.

Sloppy work in preparing the police report happens and the defense will scour the report hunting for inconsistencies and mistakes to cast doubt in the minds of jurors.

The defense will work to develop evidence that is favorable to the defendant that the state may have ignored or overlooked. The police officer and witnesses will be interviewed under oath to develop the best possible defense theory.

Each case has its unique set of facts and circumstances, but DUI cases have common defenses under law including:
  • The arresting officer didn’t have a reasonable suspicion – and that’s not just a hunch – that a crime has been committed or is being committed.
  • There was no probable cause to make the traffic stop, such as committing a traffic infraction.
  • The defendant was not “slightly impaired” as required by Arizona law and that can get complicated because people process alcohol at different metabolic rates.
  • The field sobriety test wasn’t conducted properly or physical issues may be involved.
  • The level of alcohol in the blood was inaccurate because the breathalyzer wasn’t properly calibrated.
  • If blood was drawn to determine the level of intoxication, it wasn’t tested within two hours as required by law or improper storage of blood tainted the result.
  • The performance record of the arresting officer may show a pattern of inaccuracy.

Consequences of a DUI conviction

Arizona has a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving, so even if you tested lower than 0.08 BAC, you can still be charged with a misdemeanor and face significant fines and a day in jail if you’re just “slightly impaired.”

A DUI is elevated to a felony if the offense is the third DUI within seven years of the first DUI conviction, if you had a child younger than 15 in the vehicle when stopped, if your license was suspended, revoked, or canceled, or you were driving the wrong way.

A felony conviction has serious consequences to your job and personal life.

Free, confidential legal consultation

If you or a loved one is thinking of taking your DUI case to trial, I urge you to take advantage of my free, no obligation and confidential consultation to assess your prospects and possible defenses. You can get a free case assessment over the phone, text, or online at FaceTime. I also can review any documents you have by email. To get your free consultation call 480-729-1683 at any time on any day. I will respond promptly unless I’m in court.

I have a record of aggressively defending clients and I provide personalized service. You’ll always be speaking directly with me.

I defend Arizona DUI cases in justice, municipal, state, and federal courts in Maricopa and adjacent counties.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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