Oklahoma DUI: Jury Trial vs. Bench Trial

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If you have been charged with DUI in Oklahoma, you should understand that you are facing both a criminal charge for the alleged act of driving under the influence as well as an administrative action against your drivers license.

The administrative action must be handled in an administrative license suspension hearing; the criminal charge, however, will be resolved in the same manner as any other criminal case.

Two Types of Trials

There are many ways for a criminal charge to be resolved before ever reaching trial, including pre-trial motions and plea bargains. If, however, a favorable resolution cannot be met through these means, then the case will be scheduled for trial.

In Oklahoma, there are two types of trials: jury trials and bench trials.

Jury Trials

Everyone who is charged with a criminal offense in our state in entitled to a trial by his or her peers. This is called a jury trial.

  • If you have been charged with misdemeanor DUI, you are entitled to a six-member jury
  • If you are facing a felony DUI charge, you are entitled to a 12-member jury

A jury trial looks like what you are used to seeing on TV:

  • Opening arguments are made by the prosecution and defense teams
  • Evidence is presented
  • Witnesses give testimony and are cross-examined
  • Closing arguments are given
  • The jury adjourns to vote on the verdict

The jury’s verdict must be unanimous in order to be valid. Even one vote in opposition by a juror can cause a mistrial.

Bench Trials

Bench trials look much like jury trials with regard to process. The main difference between the two is that in a bench trial, there is no jury and the judge decides the verdict. Oklahoma law provides that both the prosecution and the defense must agree to waive the jury trial before a bench trial can proceed.

Which Trial Should I Choose?

There is no right or wrong answer—it will depend on the details and circumstances of your specific case. Each type of trial has its pros and cons. A lot will depend on which court and which judge you are appearing in front of, as we may have an idea of what that judge has done in previous similar cases.

Generally speaking, it is ideal to settle the case before ever reaching trial through the use of pre-trial motions. Our attorneys routinely have DUI charges reduced or dismissed altogether by filing motions to suppress evidence and/or motions to dismiss.

However, if we are unable to reach a favorable resolution through these means, then we will weigh all the factors in your case—including our knowledge of the assigned judge—before advising you on whether to pursue a jury or bench trial.

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