This blog post is to clear up the confusion between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial. There are significant differences between both trials. A “Bench Trial” is a trial to the judge. A misdemeanor “Jury Trial” has six (6) jurors and duration is normally one (1) to three (3) days long; depending on the jurisdiction. Only eight cases are allowed to be misdemeanor jury trials. These are DUI, shoplifting, theft, prostitution, solicitation of prostitution, public sexual indecency, reckless driving and indecent exposure. These are the most serious misdemeanors, also known as crimes of “moral turpitude.” Excluding the eight misdemeanors just listed, all other misdemeanors will be bench trials.
There are multiple differences between a bench and jury trial. In some cases, a bench trial may be more beneficial than trying a case to a jury. However, you should allow a skilled defense attorney to access your case before making that decision. Judges often know what officers are “straight shooters” and which ones tend to bend the story. They also know the difference between a good and bad police investigation.
The main difference between the two trials is that in Jury Trials, the jury has to decide whether you are “guilty beyond reasonable doubt”, “not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”, or whether they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict; also known as a “hung” jury. In a Bench Trial, the judge makes this decision.
Without a good private defense attorney to represent you, the conviction rate on a bench trial will be much higher and could be up to 20% higher with jury trials. Credibility and a carefully crafted defense are two important attributes which an experienced defense attorney will bring to your case.