In the state of New York, driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is a serious crime that carries harsh penalties such as fines, license suspension, and even jail time. When facing criminal charges for a DUI offense, many wonder whether they have the right to a jury trial. Although those charged with DUI have a right to request a jury trial, depending on the circumstances of the crime, they may be better suited to a bench trial where the prosecution presents evidence and argues directly to the judge, who then decides whether you are guilty, rather than jurors deciding your fate. If you have been charged with DUI, contact an adept Garden City, NY, DWI/DUI attorney who can help you determine whether you have a better chance of fighting the case with a jury or judge. Please continue reading to learn how jury trials and bench trials differ.
How are jury and bench trials different?
In a jury trial, a group of jurors will decide whether you’re guilty after hearing the evidence and legal arguments. Jurors must meet a unanimous vote on whether they believe you committed the crime you have been charged with. Unlike jury trials, a bench trial does not involve a jury but is conducted by the judge alone. The judge will act in the same manner as a jury, meaning they will be presented with evidence and hear legal arguments. However, they alone have the authority to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty.
In most cases, jury trials will take longer than bench trials due to jury selection. This is because both sides can remove potential jurors if they feel they cannot decide the case impartially. It also takes time for the judge to explain the law to the selected jurors. Alongside the length of the trial, another significant difference is that with a jury trial, there is the possibility of a hung jury. As mentioned above, jurors must reach a unanimous vote on whether they believe the prosecution has proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury cannot get a unanimous decision on guilt, the court will have to declare a mistrial.
In some cases, the prosecution won’t bother to retry the case, meaning a hung jury could drastically benefit your case and result in dismissed charges. Furthermore, jurors don’t always follow the law, which can result in biases and extraneous circumstances to impact a juror’s decision on guilt. This can lead to an unfair trial and unfavorable results, so in some cases, it is better to pursue a bench trial as a judge will stick to the letter of the law.
To ensure you have the best chance of a positive outcome, it is in your best interest to retain the legal services of a qualified attorney from Grunwald & Seman, P.C. today. With years of experience, your team can help you determine whether your particular case is better suited with a jury or bench trial. Allow our firm to represent your interests in court to maximize your chances of favorable results.