Finding An Advocate

Should You Let A Judge Or A Jury Hear Your Case?

If you are charged with a crime, you may have the choice whether a judge hears and rules on your case, or a jury. Before you make this decision, you should understand the differences in these options. You should also talk to a criminal defense attorney like those at Druyon Law to find out what he or she thinks would be best. Here are three differences you should fully understand about these options.

Deciding the verdict: 1 vs. 12

A bench trial is handled by a judge, and the judge alone is responsible for hearing the evidence and making a ruling, whereas a jury trials consist of 12 people listening to the evidence and making a decision about it.

One of the benefits of a jury trial is that all 12 jurors must agree on the verdict in order for you to be convicted of the charge. If they cannot come up with a unanimous decision, the court will consider this a hung jury, or a mistrial. At that point, you may have to go through another trial, or the court may just drop your charges.

Viewing the evidence

Judges are sworn in and must uphold the law, and this can be beneficial for you. Letting a judge decide your ruling can help you because of their legal expertise and knowledge of the law.

Jurors are not legal experts. They process what they hear, and they may have biases against you. This can be a disadvantage in some cases, because jurors might not come up with their decisions based on facts and legal grounds.

Jurors can also have a hard time differentiating between admissible and inadmissible evidence, whereas judges are usually good at this. Judges typically prefer to leave inadmissible evidence outside of the courtroom, but there are times when attorneys or witnesses may mention details that are not considered admissible.

The problem with this is that when jurors hear evidence the judge labels "inadmissible," they may have a hard time blocking this information out of their minds. Because of this, the jurors may reach a verdict that is actually based on evidence that was not admissible for the case, even though it was mentioned during the court case. A judge, on the other hand, is usually good at keeping this type of evidence separate from the case.

Timing of the trial

Bench trials are typically faster than jury trials, and this is primarily because:

  1. It takes time to select a jury; with a bench trial, a jury is not needed.
  2. The jury must spend time deliberating; the verdict of a bench trial is decided by the judge and deliberations are not necessary.

Receiving a fair and speedy trial is your right as a citizen of the U.S., and your criminal defense attorney can help you through this difficult time in life, whichever type of trial you decide.