Preparing a Trial Notebook in a DUI Case

Part of being a DUI Attorney is preparing for trial. Unlike many other areas of law the DUI Attorney has to be an expert in all three phases of the game. Negotiation skills, Research and writing skills, and trial preparation. Most Attorneys can use their complete career without every conducting a trial. However an achieved and experienced DUI Attorney will conduct numerous trials throughout their career.

Part of preparing for trial is drafting a trial notebook. For those of you that are not familiar with what a trial notebook is. It’s a notebook, usually a three ring binder that contains everything you need to properly litigate a jury trial. This article will discuss how to create one, what the pertinent parts are, and how to effectively use it.

To create a trial notebook all you need is a three ringer binder. Some page dividers. And some labels. You need enough page dividers and labels for each applicable part of the jury trial. I like to break my trial notebook up into the following categories: Motions in Limine, Briefs, Discovery, displays, Voir Dire, Opening Statement, Prosecution witnesses, Defense Witnesses, Closing Argument, Jury instructions. Here is what I include in each section.

Motions in Limine: These are pretrial motions that outline the rules of the trial. They can include things like limiting testimony, excluding witnesses from the courtroom, Opposing counsel restrictions, etc.

Briefs: This section contains more extensive motions that are not “in limine” motions. For example a motion to suppress a breath test, or a motion to dismiss for probable case. These are typically litigated prior to the trial, but I always carry them with me.

Discovery: Depending on the complexity of the case this could be its own binder. But in your typical DUI case it would only contain the police report.

displays: Again this could be its own binder, but in your typical DUI any displays would be pretty small.

Voir Dire: These are the questions that I have preplanned for my jury selection. I also contain an ideal juror characteristic sheet, along with applicable jury selection case law.

Opening Statement: I include a one page summary of my opening, along with the actual written version.

Witnesses: This is the cross examination or direct examination of witnesses.

Closing Argument: Again I include a one page summary, along with the actual written version.

Jury Instructions: Depending on the number of jury instructions you have this could be a few pages or 20-30 pages.

Part of preparing for trial is organizing your thoughts, arguments, and documents needed for trial. A trial notebook does all this, and it gets you to start thinking about your case well before the eve of trial.

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