The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees each of us the right to a jury of impartial jurors if the state chooses to charge us with a crime. This right exists to ensure that each of us enjoys the benefit of being judged not by lawyers and judges, but by people who are part of our community.
Who exactly are our peers in this context? The dictionary defines a peer as “someone of the same age, status, or ability as another specified person.” But if you look at any jury pool in Texas and compare a jury to a defendant, the jury does not fit this definition. More often than not, a defendant to a criminal case is poorer, has less education, and is a different age than the pool of people selected to decide his or her fate.
Where does the term ‘jury of your peers’ come from? It comes as a surprise to many that the words ‘jury of your peers’ do not appear in the constitution. In fact, it is more of an English term of law than an American term.
Texas and U.S. Courts Define Impartial Jury
The legal term ‘impartial’ as it relates to the Sixth Amendment has its own definition provided by Texas and federal courts. While it is different than the dictionary definition, it has resulted in a system that good DWI defense attorneys can use to help their clients achieve the best outcome possible in a given case.
The primary source of law on this issue comes from a U.S. Supreme Court case known as Batson v. Kentucky. In that case, an African American man was accused and convicted of burglary and receipt of stolen goods in Kentucky by a jury with only white people on it. There were originally some African Americans in the jury pool, but the prosecutor dismissed them with peremptory challenges before the case began.
The man appealed the conviction because he felt that he could not get an impartial jury (or jury of his peers) when none of the jurors shared his race. The Supreme Court agreed with the man, not necessarily because there were no black people in his jury, but because the prosecutor systematically dismissed the black jurors prior to the trial. Since the Batson v. Kentucky decision, prosecutors may not dismiss jurors based on a juror’s race.
Defending Your Constitutional Rights in a DWI Trial
In a trial for DWI, your constitutional rights are you most important weapon to fight the charges against you. Included among those rights is a right to an impartial jury. It is difficult to ensure your rights are protected without the help of an experienced, professional, talented DWI defense team.
At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm, our team of dedicated professionals will fight with the prosecution at every turn to ensure your rights are protected. If you have been charged with DWI in the Dallas area, contact us. We look forward to bringing you into our offices, talking with you about your case, and providing you with the advice and help your case deserves.