How many defense experts are too many in a DUI trial
One of ways I try to sharpen my trial skills as a practicing DUI lawyer in Seattle is by watching other DUI trials. I try to do this a couple of times a year. Lately it’s been difficult due to my own schedule not to mention my family time. However I recently was able to watch a half of a day of a DUI trial in a local municipal court here in King County. One of the things that struck me odd about the trial is that the defense had retained three separate experts to testify on three separate issues. So this got me thinking, how many defense experts are too many?
One of the most effective ways to litigate a DUI jury trial is to retain defense experts. I think every DUI lawyer would agree on that. An expert can be retained for many different issues. Usually the main issues for the defense to have experts is for the field sobriety tests, the breath or blood test, and any medical conditions the defendant has.
This DUI trial I watched had defense experts for all three issues. It was an interesting defense tactic. However I do not believe it was as effective as the defense thought it was for a couple of reasons.
First a DUI trial is relative short. Meaning there are not a lot of witnesses needed to testify unlike in a serious felony trial. In a felony trial it is not uncommon for each side to retain several different experts. The cases are more complicated and usually there are more legal issues that an expert can testify to. This is not the case in most DUIs. I just think in a DUI case it is better to focus on maybe one or two issues and craft your defense around those. The concept of throwing as much sh?t against the wall and seeing what sticks is not a good idea. When you have that many defense experts clearly you’re not focusing on one or two things which I think can create confusion among the jury.
Secondly I think it portrays the defendant in a negative light in the eyes of the jury. If I was sitting on a jury for a DUI case in King County. And the defendant had 3 or more experts. I would wonder why they have so many? Is the defendant just trying to buy his way out of the charges? Is the defendant just throwing as much money towards the defense in the hopes it will impress the jury? Maybe that is just me, but that is how I would fee.
So what is the correct amount of experts to have? Well I think it varies. But in a DUI trial I don’t think more than two experts is necessary. Especially if it is a normal DUI, which this DUI in King County was. And to be honest, I have never had more than one expert testify at a trial, and I have litigated over 100. So you can take that for what its worth.
About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle. He has been named a Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by both the Super Lawyers and Seattle Met Magazines, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. He is also rated a 10/10 by Avvo.com when it comes to Seattle DUI Lawyers.