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Arizona Denies Right to Jury Trial in DUI Cases

Arizona Denies Right to Jury Trial in DUI Cases

Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog

Arizona has just joined a small but growing list of states that have taken away the right to jury trial in DUI cases.

A few weeks ago I posted "DUI and the Disappearing Right to Jury Trial" on the disturbing trend in government of denying one of our most basic constitutional rights: the right to be tried by a jury of our peers. The federal government and a handful of states have eliminated jury trials for drunk driving cases or for misdemeanors altogether. Without admitting it, they are apparently doing this primarily to save money and to "expedite" the criminal justice system (read: eliminate impediments to conviction).

But , you ask, the Sixth Amendment to our Constitution clearly says, " In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed..." How do you get around that?

Addressing an appeal from a Nevada DUI case a few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in its wisdom that it didn't really mean we had a right to a jury trial for ALL crimes -- only for really big ones. What's a really big one? Well, basically any offense for which you can go to jail for more than six months. In other words, if the law says that the maximum punishment is six months imprisonment or less, you can't have a jury trial: your guilt or innocence will be decided by an elected or politically-appointed judge.

But, you object, the language of the Sixth Amendment is clear: "In ALL criminal prosecutions..." Well, we are told, it doesn't really mean that.

The state of Arizona is the most recent to address this issue....and their Supreme Court has just rendered a decision (Derendal v. Hon. Griffith, No. CV-04-0037-PR). Before the ruling was published, The Arizona Republic had reviewed the case:

When the Derendal case reached the Arizona

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