Jury Trials In Florida: Behind The Scenes
Most people who get arrested on suspicion of a crime will not face a trial by jury. Some of them will be released without ever formally receiving criminal charges, and some will have their charges dropped before or shortly after they enter a plea. Of the defendants whose run-in with the law does not quickly evaporate and who face charges in criminal court, the vast majority plead guilty or no contest. Fewer than 10 percent of defendants plead not guilty, even though everyone has the right to do so. If you plead not guilty, you have the right to a fair trial, and one of the elements of a fair trial is that multiple people must agree about your innocence or guilt. Likewise, the decision about your innocence or guilt should not fall to people who have ulterior motives influencing their decision. If you plead not guilty to criminal charges, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can ensure that you get a fair trial and can help you prepare for your trial.
Juror Selection and the Quest for an Unbiased Jury
The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution enshrines the right to a fair trial. One of the elements of a fair trial is freedom from unnecessary delays, hence the “speedy trial” clause in the Seventh Amendment. Another element is that the jury must be unbiased. Therefore, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers may interview prospective jurors to make sure that they do not have prior knowledge of the case or strong views on issues related to the case that would render them incapable of impartiality. In highly publicized cases, jury selection can take a long time.
In federal cases, the jury must be made up of 12 jurors. In the state criminal courts of Florida, the requirement for 12 jurors only applies in capital felony cases. For other felony cases and first-degree misdemeanor cases, the minimum number of jurors is six. For lesser misdemeanor cases, where there is no possibility of jail time or where the maximum possible jail sentence is six months, there may not be a jury trial at all.
When the Jury Returns a Verdict
In federal cases as well as Florida ones, jury verdicts must be unanimous. If the jury finds you guilty, you have the right to appeal your conviction. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the court declares a mistrial. When this happens, the state may decide to drop the case against you and not pursue your charges any further. If it decides to continue with your case, you have the right to another trial. Some defendants decide to change their pleas to guilty or no contest during preparations for trial after a mistrial.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you have decided to enter a plea of not guilty and go to trial in your criminal case. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.