The court brings real DUI trials to local high schools. It is typically held in a school auditorium or large meeting space and many students attend. The defendant waives his right to a jury trial and a real court trial is held with 12 students serving as an advisory jury. Prosecutor and defense counsel present the case, and witnesses (such as the arresting officer and toxicologist) give testimony. The students deliberate and render a verdict after the court has already ruled, so as to eliminate any influence. The trial is followed by a question-and-answer session. The defendant receives community service credit towards his fines for participating in the trial.
The outcomes are hard to track, but the continued interest and positive feedback from the participants indicate that the program has a strong positive impact on the students. Locally, the continued request for trials from different schools and the positive feedback reflect success. This is a very effective way to reach a large audience and to convey not just the perils of drinking and driving, but also the role of the justice system.
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