If you’re facing criminal charges, you may be wondering what type of trial you’ll have: a jury trial or a bench trial. Understanding the differences between the two can help you make an informed decision about your case. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the key differences between a jury trial and a bench trial so you can be prepared for what’s to come.
The Differences Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial
This guide explains the following:
- What is a Jury Trial?
- What is a Bench Trial?
- Key Differences Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial
Here’s a closer look at each.
What is a Jury Trial?
A jury trial is a legal proceeding in which a group of people (the jury) listens to the evidence presented by both the prosecution and defense and determines the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Juries are made up of ordinary citizens who are selected from the community and sworn in to serve as impartial judges of the facts.
What is a Bench Trial?
A bench trial, on the other hand, is a legal proceeding in which a judge, rather than a jury, decides the defendant’s guilt or innocence. In a bench trial, the judge listens to the evidence presented by both the prosecution and defense and renders a verdict based on the law and the facts.
Key Differences Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial
Now that we’ve defined both types of trials, let’s look at the key differences between a jury trial and a bench trial.
#1. The Decision-Maker
The most obvious difference between a jury trial and a bench trial is who makes the final decision. In a jury trial, the jury decides the defendant’s guilt or innocence, while in a bench trial, the judge makes that decision.
#2. Jury Selection
In a jury trial, both the prosecution and defense have the opportunity to question potential jurors and strike those they believe may be biased or unsuitable. In a bench trial, there is no need for jury selection, as there is only one decision-maker: the judge.
#3. Complexity of the Case
Sometimes a bench trial may be more appropriate, and in other cases, a jury trial is more appropriate. This may depend on the complexities of the case and whether you stand a better chance being judged by your peers rather than a judge – and your attorney can talk to you about this at greater length.
#4. Speed and Efficiency
Bench trials can sometimes be faster and more efficient than jury trials, as there is no need to select and instruct a jury.
Whether you choose a jury trial or a bench trial depends on the specific circumstances of your case. It’s important to understand the differences between the two and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option. It’s nearly always best to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help guide you through the process.
Related: What’s attorney-client privilege?
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