What is a "case theme" & why is it important?
A case theme is the basic argument of your defense. It is what you want
jurors to believe is at the heart of your case. Your Orange County DUI
defense lawyer's job is to make a compelling case that this is what
your case is about and remind jurors of it throughout the trial. They
will tell the jury that the issues related to this theme are the only
ones relevant to the case. Furthermore, they will suggest that your
DUI case lies on those issues and, therefore, your case can be won. This argument
will need to be made from the very beginning of your trial—as early,
in fact, as jury selection.
How effective your lawyer is at convincing jurors during the selection
process will have a lot to do with the ultimate success of your case.
It is often said that cases are won or lost during
jury selection; thus, it is critical that your attorney establish a compelling case for
your theme at this point. As an illustration of how your lawyer may introduce
your case theme to prospective jurors, the following is based on a theme
that a breathalyzer machine did not function properly. Your criminal defense
lawyer would then pose the following questions to the juror panel:
- What would you want to know about breathalyzer machines before submitting
to a test?
- If you are selected to be a juror in this case, would you be open to hearing
testimony about flaws and malfunctions of these machines? Why or why not?
- Do you feel that evidence of a malfunctioning breathalyzer machine should
be weighed among the other evidence to determine the guilt or innocence
of a defendant? Why or why not?
When your attorney asks jurors questions such as these, they tend to open
up. From this, you can determine whether or not they will be receptive
to the theme of your case.
How to Establish a Theme in Your DUI Case
In any criminal trial, the prosecution presents its case first. The prosecutor
will give his or her opening statement first, present the first witnesses
and evidence, and make the first closing argument. As a result, the prosecutor
is able to set out their story and set the tone for the case prior to
your legal counsel having an opportunity to make his or her opening statement.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that they have to wait until closing arguments
to present your story to the jury.
Since it is a known fact that a lot of jurors will begin to formulate their
opinions about the case early on, your Orange County DUI attorney will
begin to build a persuasive case theme long before the trial even starts
and take advantage of every chance that they have to present that case
theme throughout the trial, starting with jury selection. There are many
defense lawyers who don't even try to adopt a theme, but they decide,
instead, to attack everything in sight by arguing every possible theory.
These types of criminal defense attorneys challenge each and every factual
issue, regardless of how vast the proof is or how insignificant the fact
may be to the case. They vigorously cross-examine all witnesses, even
the less significant ones. Additionally, they dispute every piece of evidence,
even if it is not necessarily harmful to the defense, and they set forth
a la carte arguments at closing, asking the jurors to choose what they
believe to be sufficient to create reasonable doubt.
More experienced lawyers are well-aware that this scattered approach is
rarely effective. It is more effective to present a targeted attack on
the issues that are important to your particular case, presented in the
context of a persuasive case theme. Your attorney should steer clear of
themes that are just a general referendum on drunk driving; instead, they
should formulate a theme that is focused on the facts of your case and
what happened on the specific day that you were charged.
If you have been charged with DUI in Orange County, contact The Law Office
of Barney B. Gibbs today to
schedule a free initial consultation!