If you are facing a criminal charge in New Jersey, you have the right to a jury trial. But should you use it? While the right to a jury trial is firmly rooted in the U.S. Constitution, there are some potential drawbacks to having your criminal case tried by a jury of your peers. In some cases, these potential drawbacks will outweigh the protections that a jury trial provides, and it will be in the defendant’s best interests to request a “bench” trial—in which the judge decides the defendant’s guilt.
What are the Benefits of Requesting a Jury Trial in New Jersey?
Why might you want to request a jury trial in your New Jersey criminal case? Some of the primary benefits of having your case tried by a jury of your peers include:
1. As a Defendant, You Get To Be Involved in the Jury Selection Process
When you request a jury trial, you (and your New Jersey defense attorney) get to be involved in the jury selection process. This means that you get to help choose who will decide the outcome of your case.
2. The Jury Must Reach a Unanimous Verdict
To return a guilty verdict, the jury must reach a unanimous decision. If even one juror believes you are innocent, this will be enough to save you from a conviction.
3. Requesting a Jury Provides More Opportunities for Filing an Appeal
From issues during jury selection to issues arising during your trial, when you request a jury, this provides more potential opportunities for filing an appeal if you get convicted in court.
When Might You Not Want to Request a Jury Trial?
Given these benefits of requesting a jury trial, when might you not want to assert your constitutional right to a trial by jury? Here are three examples of scenarios in which this might be the case:
1. The Facts of Your Case are Complicated or Unfavorable
If the facts of your case are particularly complicated or unfavorable, then it could be in your best interests to put the outcome of your case in the hands of an experienced and impartial judge.
2. There is a Risk of Juror Bias
Unfortunately, despite the protections built into the jury selection process, there is still a very real risk of juror bias in New Jersey. If it appears unlikely that you will be unable to obtain an unbiased jury, then you may be better off choosing a bench trial.
3. The Additional Costs Aren’t Worth It
Finally, in some circumstances, requesting a jury trial will not be worth the additional costs involved. In addition to weighing the other factors discussed above, your criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether you should invest in a trial by jury.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey Defense Attorney for Free
Deciding whether to request a jury trial is one of the most important decisions you will make during your criminal case. To get help from an experienced New Jersey defense attorney, call 877-435-6371 or request a free consultation online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive criminal defense experience as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our website, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.