Houston Criminal Law Blog

EXPERIENCED. AGGRESSIVE. HOUSTON CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM: The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp

Waiving a Jury Trial

Anybody who is accused of a serious crime is offered the option of a jury trial. In these cases, it is the jury that determines whether or not defendants are guilty of the crimes that they have been charged with. However, there may be times when people may choose to waive their right to jury trials.

Benefits of a Jury Trial

In a jury trial, a verdict is only made if there is a unanimous vote among the jurors. Even if only one juror disagrees with the rest of the jurors, a verdict cannot be made. This fact can be quite beneficial to defendants, as the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt to each and every juror.

When to Waive a Jury Trial

There can be some benefits to waiving a jury trial as well. In many cases, a person’s charges are the deciding factors as to whether or not he should decide to waive his right to a trial by jury. The following are some common reasons why defendants may choose to waive a jury:

  • To avoid negative publicity
  • The case involves very complicated and/or technical legal issues
  • The crime was extremely heinous
  • The defendant has an extensive criminal record

Why Waiving Jury Trials Can be Beneficial

Typically, it is best to waive a jury trial whenever a crime or the issues surrounding it are so complex that the jurors will be influenced into seeking punishment, regardless of evidence. Additionally, if there is any chance that a defendant can be found “not guilty” due to legal technicalities, it is best to waive a jury. This is because judges understand legal issues much better than jurors.

Requirements for Waiving a Jury Trial

Before people can waive their rights to a jury trial, they must meet several requirements:

  • Submit a written request
  • The decision must be voluntary
  • The defendant must understand his or her decision
  • The prosecution and the court must consent to the request

Can Defendants Change Their Minds?

Defendants can change their minds and withdraw a jury waiver as long as it does not inconvenience the courts or other people connected to the case. Thus, it is not a smart idea to waive a jury trial right before proceedings begin. It is also not a good idea to request a waiver just to delay a trial. In these cases, the courts will most likely deny the requests.

If you would like additional information about waiving jury trials, meet with The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp.

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