Friday, May 06, 2011

Referendum efforts target jury trial option in DUI cases

Referendum efforts target jury trial option in DUI cases

A Phoenix DUI defense attorney has filed the paperwork for a referendum to repeal part of a new DUI law.

Senate Bill 1200, which goes into effect on Dec. 31, makes numerous changes to the state's DUI laws. Among other provisions, it reduces the time some first-time DUI offenders must have an ignition-interlock device on their vehicle to six months instead of a year, allows cities and counties to create a home-detention programs for eligible DUI offenders and allows a jury trial only for DUI suspects with prior convictions.

The Committee for the Right to Jury Trial, led by attorney Clifford Girard, wants to ask voters to repeal the part of the new law that no longer allows all DUI suspects to request a jury trial.

"I believe the right to a jury trial is a God-given right," Girard said. "If you ask the average person, and I've been doing that, if a member of your family is accused of DUI, would you want them tried with a jury of their peers or a judge, the overwhelming majority say a jury."

Girard said he believes that all suspects are entitled to a jury trial under the Arizona Constitution.

The committee must gather 86,405 signatures by July 19 to qualify for the 2012 ballot. Girard said the challenge would be finding about 200 volunteers who understand the issue and can explain it to voters.

"But I don't think it will be hard to get people to sign," he said. "We have a shot at it."

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