When a person is arrested and charged with a crime, they will eventually be put on trial, and a verdict of guilty or not guilty will be reached. A defendant’s rights surrounding their trial are held in extremely high regard. A violation of these rights could result in a mistrial or even a dismissal of their charges. One such right is a defendant’s right to have a trial by a jury of their peers. However, many defendants do not know that they do not necessarily have to have a jury at their trial.
A defendant should choose a jury trial based on the nature of their case. A highly complex or emotionally charged case may be better suited for a bench trial in which the judge takes on the duties of the jury. However, juries tend to make decisions using common sense rather than convoluted legal rules, which many believe helps them reach more fair and just decisions. There are pros and cons to requesting a jury trial for a criminal case in Philadelphia, and you should talk about your options with a skilled attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime and must now prepare for a criminal trial, call our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys for help. We can review your case and advise you on whether a jury trial would be in your best interest. Schedule a free consultation with our team at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long by calling (215) 302-0171.
Benefits and Drawbacks to Jury Trials for Criminal Cases in Philadelphia
Jury trials are the mainstay of the American criminal justice system. Juries are believed to act as a check on the government’s power over criminal proceedings. While the government controls the rules and regulations surrounding trials and investigations, ordinary community members make the ultimate decision on guilt or innocence. While juries have many advantages, some disadvantages might affect your case. Our Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys can discuss your trial options with you.
Advantages to Juries
Juries are made up of everyday people from your community. They are not legal experts, and many are completely unfamiliar with how courtrooms and criminal trials work. However, people often praise juries because they apply a commonsense approach to verdicts.
Juries have a lot of discretion when they decide a verdict in a criminal case. They are usually free to judge any evidence they hear. Even if testimony or evidence is presented to a jury, they may doubt the evidence or consider other evidence more important. This could be a serious advantage in criminal trials where prosecutors present a lot of evidence against you.
This approach allows juries to reach more fair verdicts. Sometimes, a jury’s hesitation or reluctance to fully believe the government’s story can help defendants overcome the evidence against them. Talk to our Delaware County criminal defense attorneys to determine if a jury trial would be good for your case.
Disadvantages to Juries
The commonsense approach of juries does not always work in your favor. Sometimes, juries end up ruling with their hearts instead of their heads when the evidence becomes emotionally charged. This is more common in cases where victims were seriously injured or are otherwise very sympathetic. You could present strong evidence in your favor, but a jury may still rule against you out of anger for the alleged crime or sympathy for the victim.
Juries can also get lost in the complex legal rules and procedures of your case. As stated previously, the rules do not always lead to the most just verdicts. However, the rules are still necessary to guide jurors away from verdicts that are outrageously wrong. If your case is more complicated, jurors may simply get confused and reach verdicts that are inconsistent with the law. Call our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for guidance on this matter.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Jury Trial for a Criminal Case in Philadelphia
When deciding whether to have a jury trial or a bench trial, you should speak with a lawyer about the details of your case. You may decide to waive your right to a jury trial if you believe a bench trial would give you an advantage in the courtroom. You should consider the nature of your charges, the victim, and the evidence that may be presented against you.
Jurors are tasked with being impartial decision-makers who must apply the law to the facts of your case to reach a verdict. Jurors are also human beings who make mistakes and may make more emotional decisions. Particularly gruesome evidence, such as graphic crime scene photos or surveillance footage, may have a larger impact on the jury’s minds. Even if you present an otherwise strong case, the jury may find emotionally charged evidence hard to ignore. Evidence that is less stressful or inflammatory may be more palatable for a jury.
You should also consider the nature of your charges. Non-violent offenses are less likely to evoke an emotional or angry response from jurors. However, serious violent crimes may make juries more inclined to convict simply because the allegations against you are so serious.
Alternatives to Jury Trials for Criminal Cases in Philadelphia
If you decide a jury trial is not right for your case, a bench trial is your next option. In a bench trial, the judge takes on the jury’s role and will decide the final verdict. Bench trials are sometimes more appropriate in cases where the law is overly complicated, and jurors may not be able to follow. A judge would have the legal knowledge and experience to understand the complexities of your case. Judges are also better at remaining impartial as they have likely seen many cases, both serious and minor, throughout their careers. Contact our Philadelphia criminal defense attorney about the possibility of having a bench trial.
Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with a crime, you may have to think about the possibility of a jury trial in the near future. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers can help you decide what kind of trial is best for your case. Arrange a free legal consultation at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long by calling (215) 302-0171.