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What should I know about jury trials in criminal cases?

When you are facing a criminal case, you have very specific rights that must be respected throughout the case. One of the rights that you have in many criminal justice cases is the right to a jury trial. There are several things to consider about a jury trial before you decide that this is how you will have your case handled.

Do I have to have a jury trial?

You have the right to have a jury trial, but you certainly don't have to exercise that right. You have other options, such as waiving your right to a jury trial, that you can choose if you don't think that a jury trial is the right option for your case.

When do I have the right to a jury trial?

You have the right to a jury trial if you are facing a serious criminal charge. Some criminal charges, such as those that are classified as minor, might not include the right to a jury trial. Make sure you find out about this before you start planning a defense strategy.

What are jury trials, grand juries, and bench trials?

A grand jury is a group of citizens who review evidence in a case and decide if charges are warranted. A jury trial is a trial before a jury to determine if a defendant is guilty or not guilty. A bench trial is a trial before a judge in which the judge decides if a person is guilty or not guilty.

Do jurors get to question witnesses in a jury trial?

For the most part, juries won't be able to question witnesses in jury trials. There are exceptions to this when the jury would be allowed to present questions that they feel need to be answered.

If you are trying to decide if you want to exercise your right to a jury trial, you need to make sure that you have all of the information about how each option you have might impact your case. You can then begin to build your defense based on your choice.

Source: FindLaw, "Criminal Jury Trials: Top 9 Questions and Answers," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed Aug. 12, 2016

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