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Differences Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial

Posted on in Criminal Defense

jury trial, bench trial, Kane County criminal defense attorneyIf you are charged with a crime in Illinois and you do not accept a plea deal, your case will most likely go to trial. There are two types of trials, jury trials and bench trials. While the general rules of criminal procedure apply to both kinds of trials, there are some important differences.

Right to a Jury Trial

Under the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution, you have a right to a jury trial. Often the phrase is a right to a trial by a "jury of your peers". This means that the men and women of your jury come from the same community in which you were charged with a crime.

You do have the option to waive your right to a jury trial. When you accept a plea deal, one of the rights you waive is to a jury trial. You can also waive your right to a jury trial and instead have a bench trial. This means that the judge will hear the case and will make the decision about whether you are guilty or not guilty of the crimes for which you have been charged.

How a Jury Trial Works

The first step in a jury trial is selecting a jury. This process is called voir dire. Both your lawyer and the prosecutor will have a chance to ask potential jurors questions. Each side will be able to ask that any jurors who are not qualified to be jurors or who have a clear conflict of interest be removed from the panel. Each side can also remove a select number of jurors without giving a reason.

Once the jury is selected, the trial begins and both sides make their arguments and call witnesses. The jury is not to discuss the case during the trial. Most juries are not sequestered and each juror goes home with their family each day after the trail.

In Illinois a jury must unanimously agree to enter a verdict. This means all twelve people must agree to find you either guilty or not-guilty. If the jury does not come to a unanimous decision, a judge can declare a mistrial, and the process may start all over again.

When Might a Bench Trial be a Good Idea?

Sometimes, the facts of a case are so sensational that lawyers worry a jury will never give the defendant a fair chance. Other times, the legal technical issues are the most important part of the case and a lawyer may feel a judge would be a better audience to hear the case.

If you have been charged or accused of a crime, you need to speak with an aggressive and experienced Elgin criminal defense attorney right away. It is important that you do not speak to anyone about your case until you have first met with an attorney. Call 847-488-0889 today to schedule a consultation. You deserve a lawyer who will fight hard to protect your rights.


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