The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is fundamental not only to the criminal justice process but to the entire American legal system. Jury trials allow ordinary people from local communities to take part in the criminal justice process. Having regular people in the courtroom deciding the outcome of cases adds much-needed transparency and common sense into the justice system. However, just because jury trials are sometimes granted as a matter of right does not mean they are always the best choice.
Though some, but not all, defendants will have the right to a trial by jury, they have the option of waiving this right and having a bench trial instead. A bench trial is when the judge takes on the role of the jury and decides the outcome of the case. There are advantages and disadvantages to having a jury trial in Utah. You should talk to your lawyer about the pros and cons of juries before requesting a jury or waiving your right to one.
If you face any criminal charges in Utah, speak to our Utah criminal defense lawyer about your case. We can help you determine the best way to approach your case and whether a jury trial is right for you. To arrange a legal consultation free of charge, call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.
When You Should Request a Jury Trial for your Criminal Case in Utah
Whether or not you should request a jury trial will depend on many different factors you should discuss with your lawyer. In general, jury trials can be beneficial to a defendant because jurors often decide cases based on the law and common sense. Jurors can use their own sense of judgment and moral compass when determining if someone is guilty. However, jurors have also been known to think with their hearts when they should think with their heads.
Jurors, lawyers, and judges all look at cases a bit differently. Lawyers and judges tend to give heavy consideration to facts, evidence, and logic. While all these things are crucial to any case, they may not always point toward justice. In a trial without a jury in which the judge decides your fate – this is known as a bench trial – the side with the most evidence is likely to win. On the other hand, jurors consider the facts and evidence alongside their own sense of morality and justice. Even if the evidence is against you, a jury may find you sympathetic, or opposing witnesses unreliable, and reach a verdict in your favor.
Ultimately, whether you should request a jury is not an easy question to answer. You will need to discuss the possibility of a bench trial with your attorney and determine which course of action is best for you. For help with your case, call our Ogden criminal defense attorney today.
When You Can Request a Jury Trial in a Criminal Case in Utah
Jury trials are granted as a matter of right in most, but not all, cases. Jury trials are necessary to our judicial system, but it is not possible nor necessary to grant a jury trial to every single criminal case. For many cases, the charges are so minor that bringing the case to a jury would be a waste of time. For other cases, the charges are so severe that courts are hesitant to allow you to waive your right to a jury.
According to Rule 17 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure, felony cases are guaranteed a trial by jury in Utah. This rule also tends to extend to class A misdemeanors as well. This means that a defendant barely has to ask for a jury and they will get one without question. In fact, the defendant will likely be granted a jury in such cases unless they explicitly waive their right to a jury. In all other cases, such as class B and C misdemeanors, the defendant must submit a written request for a jury trial by a certain deadline.
In Utah, minor infractions like traffic violations do not get jury trials. You cannot request a jury trial for an infraction because the state does not provide juries for such cases. Infractions are such minor crimes that many of them are not even associated with any jail time. Assembling a jury for an infraction would likely just waste time.
If you are considering the pros and cons of a jury trial for your case, talk to our Park City Utah criminal defense attorney.
When a Jury Trial in a Criminal Case in Utah Might Not Be in Your Best Interest
While jury trials can be a significant benefit for criminal defendants, they are not so advantageous for everyone. Sometimes, the subject matter of a criminal case may be so heinous or inflammatory that jurors stop thinking about facts and only think with their hearts. This is a big downside to juries. Juries are ordinary people who are not legally trained and can accept or disregard evidence as they see fit. While most jurors do their best to reach a conclusion they feel is right, they do not always make the best choices.
Juries can easily become distracted with gruesome or upsetting evidence. If you are charged with a violent crime, photographs of the injured victim may weigh very heavily on the minds of jurors. A bruised and battered victim can sometimes sway the jury to the prosecutor’s side. Similarly, a sympathetic victim, like a child or a pregnant woman, can quickly turn a jury against you.
Juries may also have trouble reaching a verdict when the facts and law surrounding your case are overly complicated. As stated previously, juries do not have any legal training and the law can sometimes go a bit over their heads. In such cases, a bench trial with a judge may be a good idea. Judges are legally educated and trained to be impartial. This might make them a better fit for trials where the evidence is emotionally charged or the law is complex. Talk to our Provo criminal defense attorney to see if a bench trial is right for your case.
Contact Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Case
If you are facing criminal charges and want to have a trial by jury, contact our Riverton criminal defense lawyer for help. Our team can go over your case with you and figure out if a jury trial would be in your best interest. To schedule a free legal consultation, call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.