Why a Jury Trial?
One of the most important things you can do when taken to court is to plead not guilty and request a jury trial even if you intend to eventually accept a plea agreement. “Why would I do that?” you might ask.
The truth is, simply the threat of going to a jury trial gives you negotiating leverage in your case. The prosecution already thinks you are guilty or they would not have filed the charges against you. However, because many misdemeanor cases are filed on what is shown later to be weak evidence when challenged in front of a jury by experienced criminal defense lawyers like Vonderheide and Knecht, this fear of possibly losing the case can be a great advantage for your plight.
For instance, public intoxication charges are normally based only on the arresting officer’s opinion. The officer will claim that the defendant smelled of alcohol and appeared intoxicated. However, it is not illegal to drink and there is often reasonable doubt as to whether a person is intoxicated when the only evidence is the officer’s opinion. This evidence could easily be presented as weak in a jury trial and result in a not-guilty verdict for the defense.
Similarly, in most battery cases, an argument can be made for self-defense. The State’s evidence in battery cases usually consists of the self-serving statements of the alleged victim. However, that same victim is highly unlikely to admit to the police that he or she started the fight and a jury may find reasonable doubt where the alleged victim was the initial aggressor.
Strikingly, most defendants without an attorney unknowingly lose their right to a jury trial in misdemeanor cases. In Indiana, if you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, you must demand a jury trial in writing at least 10 days prior to your first trial date. If you fail to file this written jury trial demand on time, you permanently give up your jury trial right.
That said, the final outcome of your case can be determined quite early on depending on whether or not you correctly exercise your right to a jury trial and other constitutional rights. To get the best outcome in your case, you should immediately hire an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are arrested or charged with a crime.
Vonderheide & Knecht: Serving Lafayette’s Legal Needs Since 1992