A Jury Trial vs. A Bench Trial


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If you are facing a criminal trial, you will have the option of choosing a jury trial or a bench trial. The distinction between the two – on its face – is quite simple. If you have a jury trial, your case will be tried by a jury (just like in all those TV shows you have watched), which will determine if you are guilty or not guilty. If you have a bench trial, on the other hand, your case will be presented to the presiding judge alone, and he or she will render the verdict in your case. While the distinction is straightforward, the implications for your case can be significant, and making this important decision is ill-advised without the professional legal guidance of an experienced McLennan County criminal defense attorney on your side.

Bench Trials

One of the most important points to make is that your case is unique to you, the charges you face, and the circumstances involved. As such, there is no one blanket answer to whether a bench trial or a jury trial is preferable for you. Bench trials can have a variety of potential benefits, but these – naturally – must be balanced with any potential drawbacks. Consider the following potential benefits of bench trials:

  • Bench trials tend to be less time-consuming. For example, jury selection and jury instructions are – for obvious reasons – not part of the process.

  • Bench trials tend to be more simplified affairs. The judge presiding over your case has a solid handle on the law involved, including the rules of evidence and procedures. The defense often prefers a bench trial when the case involves complex evidence or legal issues, which can easily trip up a jury.

  • Bench trials tend to be less formal than jury trials, which can go a long way toward bolstering morale (given that trials are so stressful, to begin with). Sometimes, both sides are allowed to have discussions and even reach agreements on the case's specific facts within the trial itself.

Each of these can make a bench trial appealing for the defendant.

Jury Trials

In a jury trial, a panel of your peers gathers to weigh the facts and evidence presented and to render a verdict. In the majority of cases, a jury consists of 12 people who have been screened through and chosen via the jury selection process. Yes, jury trials tend to be more formal and to take longer, but these – in and of themselves – are not always bad things. The formalities themselves can morph into the bases of appeals after the fact. For example, appeals are frequently predicated on the judge having erred in the presentation of jury instructions. Jury trials are often the mode of choice for situations in which the case is quite interesting, or the defendant is considered sympathetic. Juries are thought to be more suggestible to emotion and humanity than judges are.

Call an Experienced McLennan County Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in McLennan County, Texas, is a dedicated criminal defense attorney with a wealth of experience guiding cases like yours toward beneficial resolutions. To learn more about how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact or call at 254-501-4040 today.


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