If you have been charged with driving while under the influence (DUI), you will face harsh penalties as this serious crime risks public safety. Those facing a DUI conviction wonder whether they have the right to a jury trial where impartial members of the community will consider the evidence presented during the trial and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. In most cases, those charged with a DUI offense have the right to a jury trial. However, if they decide to fight their case at trial, they also have the right to have a judge determine without jurors after being presented evidence whether the accused is guilty. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may benefit from forfeiting your right to a jury trial and instead pursuing a bench trial. If you have been charged with DUI, contact a talented Pensacola DUI Defense Lawyer who can help you determine whether your case should be argued in front of a judge or a jury.
How are jury trials and bench trials different?
When facing criminal charges for a DUI, it is in your best interest to retain the legal services of an experienced lawyer who can help you determine whether your case is better suited to a jury or bench trial. The main difference between a jury trial and a bench trial is that there are no jurors in a bench trial. The arguments are directed toward the judge, who then decides whether the prosecution has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a jury trial, jurors are presented with evidence and responsible for determining whether they are guilty.
In most cases, jury trials will take longer to conclude than bench trials because of the additional time it takes for jury selections. Jury trials can also result in what is known as a “hung jury,” which can benefit your case. If the jurors cannot unanimously decide whether you are guilty, the court will declare a mistrial. Sometimes, the prosecution can try the case. However, at that point, they may focus their energy on another issue. Therefore a hung jury can mean avoiding the harsh penalties of this offense, such as license suspension, fines, and even jail time. With a bench trial, there are no jurors, which means a hung jury is impossible. Another significant difference is that jurors don’t always abide by the law. Unfortunately, jurors don’t always follow the rules, which can lead to an unfair trial as they may consider the evidence they should consider when determining a verdict.
In some cases, you may be better suited to pursuing a bench trial by judge rather than a jury trial depending on the circumstances of your case. For more information on how a DUI trial works, contact The Law Office of James M. Burns today. Our firm is committed to helping our clients fight the charges brought against them to maximize their chances of avoiding harsh penalties.