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The Prosecutor's Role in a Drunk-Driving Case

More than 1.4 million drivers in the U.S. were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs in 2001.

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The Prosecutor's Role in a Drunk Driving Case

When criminal activity is suspected, it is up to the government to investigate, arrest, charge and bring the alleged offender to trial. A prosecutor is a lawyer who works for the government and who is responsible for developing and presenting the government's case against a criminal defendant. Prosecutors may be called county attorneys, city attorneys, district attorneys, solicitors or state's attorneys. Some jurisdictions may even have experienced police officers act as prosecutors in drunk driving cases. The prosecutor is the opponent or "adversary" of the criminal defendant and his or her attorney; the two sides go head-to-head against each other in court.

Because these attorneys focus their energies on prosecuting criminal cases, they are generally very experienced. Therefore, it is extremely important for someone charged with drunk driving to consult an attorney who has experience defending these types of cases. If you are concerned about preserving your rights as a defendant and want to strike a fair balance in court, contact Thomas J. Quinn, Attorney at Law in Greenville, SC, to speak with a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about drunk driving laws.

Prosecutors decide whether to pursue drunk driving cases in court

A prosecutor usually becomes involved in a drunk driving case through a referral from the police who have investigated, arrested, searched and processed an alleged offender. In making the decision whether to go forward with a case, the prosecutor usually considers three things: whether the case is legally sound, whether it can be proved and the relevant policy considerations. If the prosecutor exercises his or her prosecutorial discretion by deciding not to go forward with a case, it will usually be over.

The prosecutor must be assured that there is enough reliable evidence to prove the drunk driving charge before he or she will bring the case to trial. For example, if the Breathalyzer® machine malfunctioned or the test results were lost, the prosecutor may decide not to pursue the case because crucial evidence would be missing or substantially weakened.

Because the prosecutor's job is to serve justice in the public interest and not only to win every possible case, policy considerations are always part of the decision to prosecute a particular defendant. The defendant might have mental or physical conditions that make a pretrial diversion program (like alcohol or drug treatment or a suspended prosecution) a better option than trial. Finally, a prosecutor must consider the limited resources of his or her office when choosing which crimes to pursue.

Prosecutors represent the city, county or state in drunk driving cases

The filing of a complaint, indictment or other similar document by the prosecutor officially starts the drunk driving court case. The prosecutor appears at the defendant's initial hearing before a judge to represent the government with regard to pretrial release issues like bail. If the prosecutor has no objection to the defendant's release before trial, bail is usually allowed.

At trial, the prosecutor presents the government's case against the defendant. The government must prove each element of a drunk driving charge beyond a reasonable doubt based on relevant, credible evidence elicited through the testimony of competent witnesses. In drunk driving cases, the arresting officer is generally one of the key witnesses for the prosecution. The prosecutor also participates in requesting or objecting to jury instructions given by the judge at the end of the trial, although jury trials are not available in all drunk driving cases. The prosecutor may also be called on to defend the government's sentencing recommendation, if there is a dispute over the appropriate sentence to be imposed.

Speak to a drunk driving defense lawyer

Prosecutors have significant power and influence in drunk driving cases. They take the case from the police and decide whether to pursue it in court, represent the government's interests in court to pursue a conviction, and they may recommend a particular sentence if the defendant is found guilty. Prosecuting criminal cases is what these government lawyers do every day. Accordingly, if you have been charged with drunk driving, it is very important that your lawyer is smart, tough and experienced. Contact Thomas J. Quinn, Attorney at Law in Greenville, SC, now to speak to a knowledgeable drunk driving defense attorney.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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