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DUI Case Highlights Importance of Impartial Jurors

One of the many rights afforded to criminal defendants is the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Thus, prior to trial defense counsel and the prosecution will question potential jurors to assess whether they may be biased, and will challenge the selection of any impartial jurors. A recent case arising out of Indiana highlighted the importance of vetting jurors and protecting a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial, as the trial court’s failure to conduct a hearing regarding a juror’s potential bias resulted in the appellate court granting a new trial. If you face DUI charges, it is important to retain a zealous Illinois DUI attorney who will fight on your behalf to protect your right to a fair trial.

Facts of the Indiana Case

Reportedly, the defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of her vehicle by emergency personnel. She was charged with two counts of DUI, and the case proceeded to trial. The trial court gathered the potential jurors and explained the process of voir dire. After the first six jurors were questioned and selected, one of the jurors submitted a note to the bailiff that disclosed that one of her family members was killed by a drunk driver.

Allegedly, defense counsel requested that the juror be brought back for additional questioning regarding her impartiality, to which the court stated there was nothing they could do. The remaining jurors were selected, and all the jurors were sworn in. Defense counsel moved to have the juror removed. The court denied the motion, and the defendant was found guilty on both charges. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed. The court noted that the right to an impartial jury is a keystone of the criminal justice system. Further, the court stated that if there is even one biased juror, it constitutes an error necessitating a new trial. In examining the issue of amount of new information that would require the court to hold a hearing to investigate bias, the court held that when a party seeks a hearing regarding juror bias after the jury has been selected but before the jury is sworn in, a hearing should be granted if the party seeking the hearing provides a relevant basis for suspecting potential bias. Thus, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion in not granting a hearing when it was first requested.

Illinois Law Regarding the Right to an Impartial Jury in DUI Cases

In Illinois, case law has established that the trial court has a duty to supervise the selection of an impartial jury that is free from bias and prejudice. The scope and manner of the pre-trial examination are within the discretion of the court. A trial court will be found to be in abuse of its discretion if it prevents the selection of an impartial jury. For a defendant to establish that the trial court committed an error in questioning a jury, he or she must establish that the questions were a material factor in the conviction, or that they most likely caused prejudice.

Consult an Experienced Illinois DUI Attorney

DUI defendants have numerous rights that they can exercise from the time of the initial investigation through the conclusion of the trial. If you are faced with DUI charges, it is important to consult an experienced Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your potential defenses. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC is a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney who will aggressively advocate in your defense. You can reach Mr. Harvatin at 217.525.0520 or via the form online to schedule a confidential and free meeting.