In the U.S., jury trials are a way to maintain a system of checks and balances. Because the state prosecutes criminal matters, having 12 impartial individuals hear and decide a case helps prevent the government from exerting too much power over its citizens’ freedoms. As such, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual the right to a trial by an impartial jury. However, not all criminal cases are presented before a panel of the defendant’s peers.
Rights Pertaining to Serious Offenses
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, petty offenses that result in an incarceration sentence of fewer than 6 months are excluded from this constitutional guarantee. Therefore, the law applies only to serious offenses, which means a defendant’s case would not be heard before a jury if they face multiple petty charges where the aggregate of their punishment is more than 6 months.
Waiving Right to Jury Trial
In Florida, if a person was charged with a serious offense, they could waive their right to a jury trial and have their case heard only by a judge. To do so, they must submit a request in writing, and the state must consent to the waiver. Because the defendant is giving up their constitutional right to a trial by jury, these bench trials are not common, and the judge will speak with the defendant before granting the request to ensure they understand what they are giving up.
Trials for juvenile offenses are heard in juvenile court and are presented before a judge rather than a jury. However, the juvenile can be “direct filed,” meaning tried in adult court. In such instances, if the alleged offense is a serious one, the minor’s case will be heard by a jury.
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Our attorney has over 20 years of legal experience and an extensive understanding of the criminal trial process. We will thoroughly examine the facts of your case and inform you of your legal options for your particular situation. Whether a judge or jury hears your case, we will fight hard to work toward getting charges reduced or dropped.
To discuss circumstances case with our lawyer, call us at (305) 400-0074 or contact us online.