Flagstaff Lawyer Slams the Change to Arizona DUI Law Depriving Citizens of a Jury Trial

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

Thomas Jefferson, 1789.

For those charged with a DUI in Arizona, including political folks like Arizona State Representative Trish Groe (R) who has a history of DUI charges, a trial by jury was a guarantee. Until now.

Starting soon, first-time DUI defendants facing misdemeanor DUI – Slightest or DUI – 0.08% or More charges will not have the right to take their case to a jury. Why? Juries are the foundation of the people’s system of justice. The people’s court. The people’s constitution.

Let’s ask the Arizona senator pushing for this deprivation of a right to a jury trial. Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, who ushered the change through the Legislature, said there is no reason for the time and expenses of a jury trial for what, in the broad scheme of criminal laws, is a relatively minor offense. (Source: Arizona Daily Sun)

But is such a criminal charge a minor offense? I’ll pose the question to my readers:

Is it minor for a person to face up to 6 months in jail, $2,500 in fines plus 84% surcharge, and other punishments?

The fine (with surcharge) is up to $4,600. The jail is up to half a year. It’s an economic argument from Sen. Gray. Time and expense.

In my opinion, the Arizona Constitution, the rights of the people, and the very basis of our criminal justice system — the jury — must never subject to destruction on the basis of time and expense. Granted, felony DUI cases, and all cases triable in the Superior Courts, still come with the right to a jury trial.

But why make this change to misdemeanor first-time DUI cases? Why not give the accused the right to take their case to a jury, when their liberty, freedom, and money are all at stake?

“A right to jury trial is granted to criminal defendants in order to prevent oppression by the Government.”

Justice Byron White, Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 155 (1968).

Juries hold everyone accountable, just like Arizona citizens do when they vote senators out of office. To take away the right to a jury is to take away the community’s contribution to their own justice system.

Jury service is widely renowned as instructive and educational. Jurors learn about their own criminal justice system; they participate meaningfully in the law; and they honor the constitution and their community. Jury service is not waste of time. It is not a waste of money. Jurors vote guilty or not guilty.

The change to the Arizona DUI statute is a deprivation of the right of the people to have a say, to hold the system, and people being salaried by Arizona tax-payers, accountable. Jurors don’t just hold the guilty accountable.

They hold the government accountable: the police that we pay, the prosecutors that we pay, the judges that we pay, the defense lawyers that we pay, and the entire system, funded by the citizens, upon which we defend our laws and morals. Taking away the long-established tradition of a jury trial is an inexcusable detriment to the State of Arizona, and a deprivation to all of us who live here.

“Civil liberties had their origin and must find their ultimate guaranty in the faith of the people.”

Justice Robert H. Jackson, Douglas v. Jeannette, 319 US 157, 182 (1943).

The right to engage a jury in DUI cases must never be compromised.

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