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Jury Trial or Bench Trial

What is a Jury Trial in Arizona?

A misdemeanor “Jury Trial” is comprised of 6 jurors. A normal misdemeanor jury trial takes approximately 1 to 2 days, depending on the jurisdiction. At the close of all evidence, the jury decides whether you are “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” (see “Sentencing” above), “not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”, or whether they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict (a “hung” jury). If the jury “hangs”, the state can either move to dismiss the charges, negotiate a new Plea Agreement with defense counsel, or they can retry the Defendant on the exact same charges as many times as they wish until a verdict is rendered one way or the other. Misdemeanor jury trials are only allowed for seven (7) different types of cases: DUI, Shoplifting, Theft, Prostitution, Solicitation of Prostitution, Public Sexual Indecency, and Indecent Exposure. These are all known as “moral turpitude” crimes (i.e., the most serious misdemeanors).

What is a Bench Trial in Arizona?

A “Bench Trial” is a trial to the judge. All misdemeanors (except the seven (7) listed above) will be bench trials. The benefit of bench trials is that judges do not necessarily take the officers’ word for face value. They have been around long enough to know which officers are “straight shooters” and which ones tend to exaggerate. In addition, they will know good police investigation versus bad police investigation. The down side of a bench trial is that without a good private attorney, the conviction rates are much higher. (Studies have shown that 20% higher than with jury trials). A good defense attorney will put on a skilled case. It also lends the Defendant credibility based on who they have hired as their attorney (i.e., the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor, P.C.).

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