Should I request a jury trial or bench trial?
When a client chooses to take a case to trial, the next crucial decision is whether to have a jury trial or a bench trial. Many reasons exist why people choose to have their Operating while Intoxicated, Possession of Marijuana or other criminal charges go to trial rather than pleading guilty. Some people are unwilling to admit to a crime they believe they are innocent of committing even though they understand the additional risks of a more severe sentence in the event of a guilty verdict at trial.
Jury trials are the most common way by which criminal charges are contested. The lawyers pick a jury from a panel of prospective jurors to determine guilt or innocence. Attorney fees for a jury trial are more expensive than a bench trial because of the extra work required which includes, in part, picking the jury, filing pretrial motions to decide what evidence the jury may hear, and the preparation and making of opening and final arguments.
Picking the right jury goes a long way in obtaining a not guilty verdict. Your lawyer can only exclude a limited number of people from a jury based on the lawyer’s gut belief that a potential juror would not be receptive to a client’s defense. Therefore, it is crucial to hire an attorney with many past jury trial successes to pick your jury. If charged with a misdemeanor in Indiana, failure to demand a jury trial within the permitted time period waives your right to jury trial resulting in a bench trial as the only option. Therefore, you should hire an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest to protect your rights.
A bench trial is where a judge decides guilt or innocence. Preserving an issue for appeal is an appropriate use of a bench trial. For instance, if drugs were found in your pocket as a result of an illegal stop or search that the trial judge mistakenly decides can be used as evidence against you at trial, having a bench trial preserves this issue for an appeal. Otherwise, a jury is normally better for deciding guilt or innocence when the evidence is in dispute such as a “she said, he said” battery or sexual assault case. Since each case is different, the decision as whether a jury trial or a bench trial is in the client’s best interests must be weighed carefully with the advice of an experienced criminal defense counsel.
With over 33 years of experience and with multiple not guilty verdicts in over a hundred trials, Steven Knecht is familiar with the possible defenses to operating while intoxicated, possession of marijuana and other criminal charges. If you find yourself having been arrested, you should immediately hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer that you can trust such as Steven Knecht to help you fight the State because you have a lot at stake on the outcome.