Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Judge, not jury, to decide DUI case

Attorney to challenge out-of-state convictions of his client


Juan L. Juarez

A Ketchum attorney is opting for a court trial instead of a jury trial for his client, a 25-year-old Hailey man charged with felony DUI.

In a criminal court trial, a judge hears the evidence and decides the guilt or innocence of a defendant. Attorney Dan Dolan, assigned as public defender for Juan L. Juarez, said in Blaine County 5th District Court on Monday that he would prefer a court trial for his client.

Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback was agreeable to Dolan's request, so Judge Robert J. Elgee ordered that a jury would not be called if Juarez goes to trial as scheduled on Jan. 10.

Juarez is charged with felony DUI for an arrest on the evening of June 18. According to a criminal complaint filed by the prosecutor's office, he has prior misdemeanor DUI convictions in Nevada and California, both in 2007.

Under Idaho law, a person charged with DUI can be charged with a felony if he or she has two prior misdemeanor convictions within 10 years of a third offense. Prosecutors argue in the complaint against Juarez that the out-of-state convictions are for violations of laws "substantially conforming" to Idaho law, but Dolan plans to challenge those convictions in the court trial, contending that they are not automatically applicable.

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"We're not contending the issue of whether or not he was an intoxicated driver, but whether he has priors," Dolan told the judge.

"If that challenge is successful, it might make this current charge a misdemeanor," Elgee said.

In his Idaho arrest, Juarez is accused in a probable-cause affidavit written by Blaine County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Pritchard of driving drunk on state Highway 75 a few miles south of Bellevue. Pritchard wrote that he pulled Juarez over for repeatedly weaving across the center and fog lines of the highway.

The deputy further wrote that Juarez was too intoxicated to take field sobriety tests and that Juarez told him that he'd just driven to Blaine County from Shoshone.

Juarez is also charged with the misdemeanor crimes of driving without privileges and driving with an open container of alcohol.

He is currently free on $2,500 bond.

Dolan said in an interview after Monday's hearing that a court trial is more applicable to his client's case.

"The issues dealt with in this case can be better dealt with by a judge than a jury," he said "It's a legal issue, not a factual issue."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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