Right to Jury Trial
You have the right to a jury trial when you are charged with a serious offense. This right is found in the Sixth Amendment and also Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. However, this right isn’t absolute. It isn’t always wise to exercise this right, and there are situations in which it is smarter to take a plea deal, pleading either no contest or guilty. If you are concerned about your right to jury trial after an arrest, an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney can answer your questions. Hanlon Law fights for the rights of the accused.Right to Jury Trial
If you plead not guilty to criminal charges, you will go to trial unless the prosecutor dismisses your case or you change your plea before trial. Your trial can be a bench trial or jury trial. In bench trials, only the judge will decide whether you’re criminally responsible. There will be no jury. Criminal culpability is determined by the jury in a jury trial. The prosecutor, defendant, and judge must all agree to a bench trial for it to go forward, and often they’re conducted for minor cases in which the parties don’t want to go through voir dire (jury selection) or the only real issue is a legal question, rather than a factual one.
Although the right to jury trial is invoked broadly in popular culture, in practice it generally only applies to serious offenses. This right is not usually invoked in connection with petty offenses. Serious offenses are those in which you are facing a possible sentence of at least six months. There has been a Supreme Court case in which only six potential months of jail time was not sufficient to qualify a first-time DUI as a serious offense.
Often more than one charge is filed against a defendant. Sometimes each individual charge only carries up to six months but together add up to more than six months in jail. However, the aggregate potential jail time is insufficient to trigger the right to jury trial.Jury Trial
A fundamental aspect of American criminal justice is the right to trial by jury. However, taking a case before a jury is a serious decision. It can be the best chance for a favorable outcome, but not in all cases. In Florida, most cases heard by a jury are heard by a six-person jury. However, first degree murder cases are taken before 12 empaneled jurors. The jury decision has to be unanimous for a conviction to occur.
During a jury trial, the judge will preside, but six or more community members will hear the evidence and arguments presented against you. They will decide whether a crime was perpetrated and whether you should be held criminally responsible for it. Jurors can be unpredictable in their decisions, which is one reason some defendants would prefer to take a plea deal rather than go before a jury. The process of voir dire allows your attorney to strike jurors that are likely to be biased against you, but it is not a failsafe against being convicted.
After closing arguments are heard, the jury will have the opportunity to deliberate according to laws and rules explained by the judge. The jury will deliberate until they get to a unanimous verdict. In some cases, the jury finds the defendant guilty of a lesser, but not a greater crime. If a jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, there is a mistrial and the case is reset for a new trial at some other time. The fact that the jury must be unanimous in its verdict is one reason jury trials can be helpful for criminal cases. While you may not be able to raise reasonable doubt in one judge in a bench trial, you might be able to raise reasonable doubt among one or more jurors.Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Serving St. Petersburg
If you are concerned about your right to jury trial in St. Petersburg, your concerns are valid. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer at Hanlon Law can answer your questions regarding your legal rights. Our founder Will Hanlon has provided strong defenses to the accused since 1994, and understands how to skillfully present a case to jurors. Please contact Hanlon Law at 727.289.0222 or via our online form.