Bench Trial vs Jury Trial: What’s The Difference?
What Is A Bench Trial?
In simple terms, a bench trial functions just like a jury trial, except instead of having a jury, the judge hears all the evidence by him or herself and decides whether or not you are guilty or innocent.
In fact, in most state cases where a defendant faces less than six months in jail, the only option available is a bench trial.
Bench Trial Benefits
Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may actually recommend a bench trial instead of jury trial. A bench trial offers several possible benefits that a jury trial does not, for example:
- A Faster verdict: A bench trial is usually a quicker way to complete a case because it can be scheduled sooner and does not require jury selection and jury instructions, which make the trial process last much longer.
- Fair Consideration: Oftentimes, information about a defendant will be presented during a jury trial that makes them look bad, even if that information isn’t relevant to the case. For example, if you are charged with robbing a bank, it doesn’t matter if you regularly cheated on your spouse, but if a jury hears that, that may sway their opinion of you even though that information isn’t relevant to your case. In a bench trial, a judge may be more inclined to ignore information that doesn’t pertain to the case.
- Following the rules: Many attorneys believe that juries tend to decide issues on emotion rather than applying the legal rules they’ve been instructed to use. If your case hinges on applying a complex legal rule to the facts of the case, a jury might have difficulty with the process, or even ignore the rule outright, in which case a bench trial might be a better choice.
Ultimately, it will be up to you and your attorney to decide which type of trial is right for your case. There are as many drawbacks to a bench trial as there are benefits, so it’s important to listen to your attorney’s advice and weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision.
Hiring A Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges and need to decide between a bench or jury trial, your best option is to be represented by counsel as early as possible in the criminal process.
A local attorney who has experience in the court in which your case is being tried can identify the specific advantages or disadvantages to a bench trial or jury trial in that court, give you meaningful advice about your options, and represent you throughout your entire case.
To learn more, or to request a free phone consultation about your case, please contact our office today.
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