The right to a jury trial is recognized and protected twice in the U.S. Constitution: in Article III, Section 2 and the Sixth Amendment. However, you also have the right to waive a jury trial in favor of a bench trial, which is a trial in which the judge alone decides the verdict. In most cases, you probably do not want to waive your right to a jury trial, but there are some situations in which doing so may make sense.
Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers have been successfully defending clients facing criminal charges for more than 40 years, and they understand when it makes legal sense to waive your right to a jury trial. Let’s take a look at the three main reasons why you should consider waiving your right to a jury trial:
The Crime is Heinous
If you are accused of a crime that is particularly brutal or heinous, a group of jurors is not likely to be sympathetic toward you. On the other hand, judges often hear explicit details of criminal cases and are less likely to be swayed by the nature of the facts.
The Case Receives National Attention
Whether it be due to the nature of the case or the status of the persons involved, criminal cases often gain the attention of the media. If your case has been reported in the media, it may be impossible to find an impartial group of jurors who have not already formed an opinion about your case. Thus, it may be best to have the judge decide your case.
The Judge is Known to Be Lenient
Judges do their best to be impartial, but some judges are strict while others are lenient. It might be to your advantage to waive your right to a jury trial if your case will be heard before a judge who is known to be more lenient. An experienced attorney who knows the local courts may be able to determine whether it is in your best interest to have your case heard by a judge.
How to Waive Your Right to a Jury Trial
Courts have routinely held that the right to a jury trial can only be waived voluntarily and intelligently. The court reiterated this in the recent case of People v. Jones, in which a defendant’s conviction was thrown out because she was not informed how a bench trial is different than a jury trial.
To waive your right to a jury trial, the court must show that you were informed of the differences between a jury trial and a bench trial, such as:
- A jury is made up of 12 members of the community
- You, through your attorney, may participate in jury selection
- All 12 jurors must unanimously agree in order to render a verdict; and
- If you waive the right to a jury trial, a judge alone will decide your guilt or innocence
The district attorney prosecuting the case must also agree to waive jury trial. Unless the district attorney agrees, the case will be tried by a jury. A prosecutor may want to have a jury trial instead of a court trial if any or all of the reasons above are true for an accused wanting a court trial.
Speak to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney at Wallin & Klarich Today
Making decisions about the best strategy for a trial is one of the most difficult aspects of criminal case. That is why you should enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled criminal lawyers have more than 40 years of experience successfully defending clients facing criminal charges. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.