Many people have misguided notions about the judge’s role in a drunk or drugged driving case; for instance, that they can appeal their driver’s license penalties to the judge, or that all judges are subject matter experts in the area of impaired and intoxicated driving. However, this is simply not the case.
Although many attorneys choose to focus or specialize in one particular area of the law—such as criminal defense, family law or drunk driving defense—the same is not always true of judges. It is true that many judges began their legal careers as trial attorneys or prosecutors; however, their role on the bench is vastly different from that of the prosecutor or defense attorney.
Judges maintain very busy schedules and hear cases involving all different aspects of the law throughout the day. It is not the duty of a judge to be an expert in the science behind blood alcohol testing or the mandated procedures involved in OWI investigations. In fact, judges rely on attorneys to educate them in the nuances of the laws and the legal precedents involved in individual cases.
The judge’s main responsibility is to maintain order over the legal proceedings and to rule on the legality of evidence provided by the prosecution and the defense. In non-jury trials, the judge will also make a decision once all evidence has been presented. In jury trials, the judge will deliver instructions to the jury members before they adjourn to decide the verdict. If you are found guilty, the judge is also responsible for sentencing, though he or she has no control over the penalties imposed against your driver’s license.