If you are accused of committing a crime in the United States, you have the right to a trial to determine whether you are guilty or not. In Minnesota, you also have the right to choose to have a jury trial or a bench trial.
When you have the option of whether to choose a bench trial or a jury trial, you may have many questions. Continue reading to learn more about which option may work best in your case.
What Is a Jury Trial?
A jury trial is the traditional court trial involving members of the community selected to be on the jury. The jury will listen to both sides of the case and make a determination of guilty or not guilty based on Minnesota state laws.
Jury trials require a unanimous determination. Be aware of jury size during your decision to choose either a jury or a bench trial. For instance, the jury is larger if you face a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
What Is a Bench Trial?
When you opt for a bench trial, you have no jury involved in your case. Instead, a judge will determine your guilt. The judge is supposed to be an expert in the law, so he or she will understand the specific laws that the state has accused you of breaking.
What Are the Advantages of a Jury Trial?
Lawyers tend to recommend jury trials more often than bench trials, even though both offer advantages.
A jury trial is advantageous for many individuals facing serious charges. In the event that even just one juror believes you are not guilty of the crimes, you can have the charges against you dismissed. Your lawyer may prefer this idea if you face particularly severe punishments.
If your case has an emotional basis, a jury may be more likely to react to this than the judge would be. Being able to relate to the jury can be beneficial if its members have been in similar situations to yours.
Finally, jurors may have a different view of reasonable doubt and burden of proof than a professional judge who has studied the letter of the law closely. This factor could work to your advantage.
What Are the Advantages of a Bench Trial?
The bench trial is potentially a relief for individuals who feel that a jury trial may come with public prejudice. In extremely public cases, individuals may feel that public opinion may taint the jury pool when media is involved in the case.
Bench trials may also be advantageous for individuals who are involved in complex legal cases. If your attorney believes that the layperson will not understand all these legal concepts, he or she may recommend that you choose a bench trial.
A bench trial is sometimes faster. With no need to find a jury or wait for long deliberations, the trial often does not last as long as a jury case.
Finally, some people choose a bench trial because they are afraid of a biased jury due to the public opinion associated with certain types of organizations, businesses, or celebrities. They may fear that the public perception may be detrimental enough to warrant impartial jurors.
Which Trial Should You Choose?
No matter what kind of trial you choose for your case, you have the right to retain legal counsel. You should always discuss your trial options with your attorney before settling on a specific trial type.
Call the Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices to learn more about legal defense for your situation. Set up a consultation to discuss the facts of your case today.