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Scriven Law, P.A. Your Problem is Our Practice
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What Is So Great About A Bench Trial?


Police must notify you of some of your rights as a defendant when they arrest you, but it is only after you meet with a criminal defense lawyer and decide to plead not guilty that you get into the nuts and bolts of what the right to a fair trial means.  You and your lawyer must decide how best to make the jurors sufficiently unsure of your guilt that they must vote to acquit you.  This might mean persuading the court to exclude certain pieces of evidence on the grounds that prosecutors obtained it illegally; if this happens, then the jury might never see the prosecution’s most incriminating evidence.  It might also mean focusing on inconsistencies in prosecutors’ arguments or undermining the credibility of prosecution witnesses.  If you think this sounds like a lot of work for an uncertain outcome, you are right.  This is part of the reason that most defendants plead guilty instead of going to trial.  Plea deals and jury trials are not your only options, though.  Some criminal cases go to trial, but the judge, rather than a jury, decides the verdict.  A Tampa criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether you want to face a jury of your peers, or whether you prefer to opt for a bench trial, instead.

Is There Such a Thing as an Impartial Jury in 2024?

The Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial, including an impartial jury, is a cornerstone of criminal procedure in the United States.  Florida law interprets the Sixth Amendment to mean that, if you are facing charges serious enough that a conviction can result in imprisonment, you have the right to a jury trial.  In other words, the court can order a bench trial instead of a jury trial if your charges are for a misdemeanor where, at worst, the court can sentence you to probation or community service, plus a monetary fine.  A jury trial is always your right in felony cases.

Defendants facing felony charges choose bench trials more often than you might expect, though.  Concerns over juror bias are one reason that some defendants forgo a trial by jury.  They might figure that, despite a rigorous jury selection process, jurors are inherently biased by our clickbait world in which everyone thinks the worst of everyone and no one, especially not anyone who has enough free time to be selected for jury duty, cares enough about justice not to be distracted by the fear mongering Tik Tok they watched while stopped at a red light on the way to the courthouse.  They might also worry that prosecutors will make so many misleading statements that the defense lawyer cannot possibly object to all of them.  Finally, they might think that a judge, who has a professional level of understanding of the law, can make a fairer decision based on the evidence than 12 jurors with no professional training about the law.

Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven

A criminal defense lawyer can help you present your case at a fair trial, whether or not it involves a jury.  Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.


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