How a Trial Works

One question that our clients all have when going into a drunk driving jury trial is how does it work?  In Oakland County, any trial starts with selecting a jury.  In misdemeanor cases, a jury consists of six citizens, while twelve jurors are chosen in felony cases.  Additionally, the courts will generally chose at least one alternate juror, because sometimes a juror cannot proceed at trial.  The jury selection process is called voir dire and consists of the Court, People, and Defendant all having a chance to ask questions to potential jurors in order to find a group of jurors who can be fair.  Some judges in Oakland County do not allow the prosecutor and defense to ask the jurors questions and instead will conduct all of the question asking themselves.  Judge Small of the 48th District Court is a good example of this.

After a jury is selected, the parties give their opening statements.  The purpose of the opening statement is for the defendant or prosecutor to inform the jury of what they believe the evidence will show.  For the defendant, giving an opening statement can either happen in the beginning of the trial, or after the prosecutor presents their entire case.  Additionally, although it rarely happens, a defendant can choose to not give an opening if they don't want to.

Once openings take place, the prosecutor will then present their proofs.  This basically consists of the prosecutor calling witnesses, normally cops, and having them testify about what they think happened.  Additionally, the prosecutor will introduce evidence of things like test results through their witnesses.  The defendant is allowed to cross examine every witness that is called by the prosecutor.

After the prosecutor rests their case, then the defendant can request that the court find in their favor.  This is called a motion for a directed verdict.  These are rarely granted, but should be requested in every trial regardless.  

The defense then has the opportunity to present their case.  Many times we don't present any witnesses and the trial then moves to closing arguments.  Other times our clients will testify at this time.  Additionally, if there are any defense witnesses such as lay or expert witnesses, this is the time they testify.

After the defense rests, the trial then proceeds to closing arguments.  This is the time where both the prosecutor and defense argues to the jury what they believe the evidence means.  The prosecutor begins with their closing, then the defense conducts theirs, and then the prosecutor gets a final chance to get back up and have the last word.

After this is concluded, the judge will read the jury instructions and after that, the jury deliberates and attempts to reach a verdict.