Voir Dire

By James Parker
/
March 23, 2022

What Is Voir Dire?

Voir dire is a French term meaning “to speak the truth.” In legal proceedings, the process of voir dire allows attorneys from both sides and the judge to question jurors, witnesses, and expert witnesses. 

When jurors are impaneled, they are placed in a group called the “venire.” During the voir dire process, the attorneys and judge will each take time to ask the potential jurors a series of questions designed to answer whether they are able to serve and whether they should serve on the panel.

If a juror is shown to be biased, or the process of jury duty would impose undue hardship, the juror may be excused or dismissed. If someone has a scheduled surgery, an important examination, or a ward who they are the sole caregiver for, they may be excused for reasons of hardship.

Witnesses can also be subject to voir dire. Attorneys can listen to their testimony and then determine its value as testimony versus the potential prejudice it could produce against the defendant. If a witness is determined to be unreliable, then they can be removed from the proceedings.

Finally, expert witnesses can also be voir dired. Experts are held to a very high standard of criticism because they are not giving statements of what they saw, but are opining based on their expertise. Therefore, attorneys and judges will ask many more questions about the expert’s qualifications, relevant research, and any other relevant points of their credentials.

Key Takeaways

  • Voir dire is a French term meaning “to speak the truth.”
  • In a court proceeding, the voir dire process allows attorneys to scrutinize witnesses, including expert witnesses, and jurors.
  • If a witness or juror is found to be incompetent or biased, through voir dire they can be struck from the trial by the judge.
  • If you have been charged with a DUI, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by leveraging experience and expert testimony to voir dire witnesses and experts on your behalf.

Voir Dire and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charges

During a DUI proceeding, there can be a “battle of the experts” to dispute evidence. This can include experts on the reliability of blood alcohol content (BAC) testing, alcohol’s effects on the body, and the effectiveness of field sobriety tests.

Through the voir dire process, attorneys can interrogate these experts to attempt to give their side an advantage. The purpose of voir dire in this instance is not to disqualify the expert because they disagree with them. Instead, voir dire is designed to ensure that the experts presented came to their conclusions through sound methods. After the voir dire process, an expert’s testimony can be affected in one of three ways.

If the expert is found to be completely inappropriate or unqualified to testify, then the judge may declare the expert witness’ testimony completely inadmissible. This will place the expert’s attorney at a serious disadvantage with the inability to contest the expert witness of their opponent. 

If some of an expert’s conclusions or research are found to be questionable, then the judge may declare that those parts of the expert witness’ testimony must be stricken. While this may weaken the impact of an expert witness’ testimony, this does allow the expert to speak to the jury and provide at least some opposition to their opposing expert witness.

Finally, if the judge has no issues with the testimony of the expert witness, they may declare the testimony admissible and allow it through in its entirety. If an expert witness’ testimony is completely allowed through, it does not mean that the court agrees with the expert. The expert’s testimony being admitted is only confirmation by the court that they have reached their conclusion through reliable means and methods. 

Bottom Line

If you have been charged with a DUI, you will need a DUI attorney to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. An experienced DUI attorney can use experience, trial tactics, and expert testimony in order to dispute the evidence and witnesses of the prosecution.

By voir diring witnesses, a DUI attorney can improve the outcome of the case by demonstrating bias, inaccuracy, or incompetence in order to exclude the damaging witness from testifying. Additionally, by being able to voir dire, an experienced DUI attorney can exclude biased jurors in order to ensure a fair trial.

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