Who Testifies at a DUI Bench Trial?

Typically, the testimony (and who provides it) will be the same at a DUI jury trial and at a DUI bench trial. At times, your attorney may add or delete a witness when a judge hears the case without a jury, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

In a DUI-DWI trial, the question of who will testify for your side can vary from no witnesses at all to calling several witnesses. In their case-in-chief, the prosecution will put up the officer who first decided that your vehicle needed to be stopped, or the witness who first saw you driving in such a way that he or she was suspicious that you were driving under the influence.

If another officer administered your field sobriety tests, this officer will testify. If a different officer or chemist did your breath, urine or blood tests, this person will also testify.

In a breath test case, the prosecution may need to have a witness testify concerning the machine’s periodic calibration reports, to show that the machine was properly checked for calibration and was in good working order. If you underwent a blood or urine test, the person who drew your blood or watched you urinate as well as the person who actually did the laboratory test may testify.

The prosecution may also have other fact witnesses testify if this information may help prove their case against you (such as to confirm that you drove your vehicle into the rear of the witness’ pickup truck while the driver was sitting at a red light).

Once the prosecution has rested (finished putting up the evidence and testimony they think is required to convict you of DUI-DWI), your attorney and you will decide whether or not you should put up evidence. In some cases, you may testify. It is highly likely the two of you will have discussed this alternative extensively before trial, but the final decision is sometimes made in the midst of your trial.

Unlike the rules for civil cases, in a criminal trial you cannot be forced to testify. As will be discussed below, the prosecution has the burden of proving you guilty. Therefore, you have no burden of proof and you can remain silent.

Your attorney may also have experts who testify to refute or dispute some or all of what the prosecution’s witnesses said on the witness stand.

Also, your attorney may have other “fact witnesses” testify as to other issues that might be legally relevant to your arrest. For example, a person who was with you all evening may testify that you drank only two beers over a three hour period, and that you acted totally sober in every way. The order of all of these defense witnesses, including your testimony, if it is offered, will depend on how your attorney and you determine your side of the story is most effectively presented.

After your side (the defense) rests, the prosecution has the option of putting on rebuttal witnesses to testify. These can be some of the same witnesses as they put before the court during their case-in-chief, or they can be new witnesses. This testimony is supposed to refute or dispute anything your defense witnesses said or other documentary evidence your side introduced.

After any rebuttal evidence by the State, you and your lawyer get a chance to rebut anything the prosecution’s rebuttal witnesses said, or any new evidence they put before the court. This stage of the case is called “surrebuttal.” These may be some of the same witnesses you used during your defense, or they can be new witnesses.