There are several different ways in which criminal charges can resolve, including jury trials and bench trials. While many people have heard of these various legal proceedings, most are uncertain about the differences between them. This post will review the advantages and disadvantages of each process as well as a description of what each process entails. It is important to remember that if you must undergo any of these proceedings, you should obtain the services of a criminal defense attorney who will remain committed to fighting for the result that you deserve.
Bench trials do not involve a jury in the process. Instead, a judge is responsible for reviewing evidence and making a decision about a person’s guilt or innocence. Not only are lawyers not required to inform a jury about the various laws and evidence involved with a case, these proceedings do not require opening statements or jury instructions.
One of the primary advantages of bench trials is that these proceedings can resolve much more quickly than trials that involve a jury. In some counties in Ohio, bench trials occur during the afternoons and last as many days as is necessary. The second advantage of bench trials is that because judges know the law, defense counsel is sometimes able to argue more theoretical or nuanced defenses than what could be used with a jury.
However, there are some downsides to bench trials. For example, the decision about a person’s guilt or innocence will be made by only one person. This means that a person will not be afforded the option of arguing a case in front of a jury. Many judges in Ohio are also not as influenced by defenses that are based on emotion, as a jury would be. As a result, someone who proceeds with a bench trial might find that a judge is not as empathetic as a jury of his or her peers. Therefore, a local criminal lawyer’s knowledge of a particular judge is very important.
Jury trials in Ohio for misdemeanors are heard in front of eight jurors and one alternate, while felony jury trials are heard before 12 jurors and two alternates.
One of the advantages of a jury trial is that unless all eight jurors unanimously agree that a person is guilty, a person will not be convicted. If even one of the jurors is unable to reach an agreement, a “hung jury” will occur. If a hung jury happens, the prosecutor’s office will decide how to respond, which can result in charges being dismissed, a plea bargain being entered, or another alternative. Because it is difficult to convince eight individuals that someone is guilty, this is often the preferred type of trial for many people rather than bench trials.
The downside to jury trials is that juries are frequently unpredictable, which means that it is uncertain how the case will resolve.
If you are proceeding through a bench or jury trial, it is often critical to obtain the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney who can make sure your that your case resolves in the best possible manner. Contact Kruger & Hodges if you need to talk with a criminal lawyer.