When involved in a legal case, many people wonder if theyre better off trying their case before a jury or a judge. And while there are always exceptions for particular cases, generally speaking as a defendant a trial by jury is usually a better choice than a judge (also known as a bench trial), one that is particularly preferred in Texas despite some declining numbers. The decision can be a complicated one, and certainly one to discuss at length with your legal representation. But to help you sort through the decision more for yourself, here are some things to keep in mind.
If you plan to go before a jury, keep these factors in mind:
- When defendants elect a jury trial, the state often sends a more experienced prosecutor against you than if you were in front of a judge.
- When dealing with a jury of 6 to 12 people, they are all drivers and may be impatient with someone with a DUI or a reckless driving defendant.
- Jury trials tend to last longer than non-jury trials, thus raising legal costs.
- Judges tend to be stricter on legal technicalities and procedures during a jury trial than a non-jury trial.
Alternatively, there are many good reasons to choose a jury trial:
- Jurors may open to hearing your case if they themselves have felt victimized by the traffic court system. If your case is particularly convincing and appeals on an emotional level, youre typically in better standing with a jury.
- If youre facing especially serious consequences from a guilty verdictsuch as losing your license or jail time, you are usually better to appeal to a jury of your peers who may be more sympathetic than a judge to your plight.
- Given how time-consuming jury trials can be for all involved, the system has some incentive to settle your case without going to trial though a deal that may be more beneficial to you.
- With a jury trial you (or your lawyer) only have to convince one person in the group that you are not guilty for you to win a case. Meanwhile a judge tends to be a tougher crowd, as they themselves have often been prosecutors in the past.
Again, each case is different, so its important to speak with your attorney to determine if trial by jury is the better choice for you than a judge. Obviously, there are no guarantees with either choice as any lawyer will tell you, but its important to know your options before making a choice.
To learn more about jury trials compared to trials with a judge, contact one of our legal experts at Scheiner Law Group today.