We recently had a client ask us about coming to court and testifying in a trial and answer the DUI Trial questions. Trials in DUI cases are very rare, but they are possible. Remember, as your attorneys, we can advise you on whether you want to go to trial in your case, but the decision is yours. No attorney can take a case to trial without the explicit approval of the client.
If you should decide to take your case to trial and testify, your first question may be what you would wear to court. For men, you should dress respectfully. Wear a suit and tie, or khaki pants, a button-down shirt, and a tie. You should never dress glitzy or “rich.” Expensive jewelry should not be worn to court.
Likewise, for women, you should dress conservatively and very modest. In the past, we have told our women clients that if they aim to dress like a librarian, they will dress about right.
As to the content of your DUI Trial questions testimony, always tell the truth.
If you are asked a question and one of the attorneys objects to the question, wait until the judge rules on the objection before answering. Sometimes, if an objection is overruled, you may forget what the question was. That is okay; you can ask that the questions be repeated.
When you are asked a question, make sure you understand the question before you answer it. If you do not understand the question, that is fine. Ask that the question be clarified.
Always make sure only to answer the question that is asked. If you are asked more than one question, it is a good idea to ask that the question be broken up and answered piecemeal.
You should never guess at the correct answer to the DUI Trial questions you are asked. If you do not know the answer to a question, answer that you do not know the answer. Pretty simple. Some defendants have hurt their cases by trying to give an answer that they do not really know. In addition, in such a situation you would not be testifying truthfully, which we discourage. As we wrote above, always tell the truth.
If you are asked questions of how far away you were when you saw or heard a certain event, it is fine to use distances inside the courtroom as a guide. For example, it would be okay to answer a question like this: “when the officer told me to step out of the car, he was about as close to me as the court reporter here.”
And that brings up another issue: there will either be a court reporter transcribing everything you say, or a tape recording will be sued to memorialize everything said in court. For that reason, it is important to be clear when you talk. Say “yes” instead of “uh-huh.”
Also, if you ever address the judge, it is best to call the judge “your honor,” instead of “sir” or “ma’am.” It is a judgment call, but unless it is really awkward, it is respectful to stand when you specifically talk with the judge. If you are in a chair at the witness stand and the judge asks you a question, it would not be expected that you stand when you address the judge.
It is common to have a little stage fright. In my opinion, your stage fright will peak shortly after you are sworn in and begin to testify. From then on, you will probably realize that DUI Trial questions testifying is not so scary, and when your testimony is over you will wonder why you were so worried about it.
As opposed to trials that you might see on television or in the movies, DUI trials rarely have many people in the courtroom. Usually there will be a judge, a courtroom clerk, a courtroom bailiff, two attorneys, twelve jurors and an alternate juror, and one or more spectators in the courtroom. Rarely will the courtroom be packed with people. If you have agreed to a court trial, there will be the same amount of people in the courtroom, less the jurors.
Of course, as the defendant, you have the right NOT to testify and that cannot be held against you.
During breaks and in the morning and afternoons, it is a good idea to avoid being nearby the jurors or witnesses. There is an on-going court order that none of the jurors is to discuss the case until the jury is charged and the jury instructions read to the jury. And even then, the jurors are not to discuss the case until they are all present in the jury deliberation room together.
If a member of the jury tries to discuss anything with you during one of the breaks, you should respond something like, ”I’m sorry; I was told that I was not to discuss anything with you while the case is still pending,” and make sure to tell your attorney or the encounter. And if you see the opposing attorney or witnesses discuss anything substantive with any juror, make sure you tell your attorney.
The advice written here is meant to be a broad overview on how to handle yourself in court and how to handle DUI Trial questions testifying. Before we go to trial with our clients, we always advise them more specifically on all of these issues, and on any specific orders that the judge has for this specific trial. But this essay is a good start.