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How jury trials and bench trials differ?

A case that is moving through the criminal justice system is likely going to have several steps to go through. For some cases, going to trial is one of those steps. Some people might find it interesting, or disturbing, to know that not all trials take place in front of a jury. Instead, some trials are bench trials. Understanding the difference between a bench trial and a jury trial is crucial if you are facing the criminal justice system.

What is a jury trial?

A jury trial is the type of trial that most people think about when they think of the criminal justice system. This is the trial that has a specific number of people serving as jurors. These jurors, who are considered your peers since they are members of the community, listen to the facts presented during the trial, take specific instructions into account and decide the outcome of the case.

What is a bench trial?

A bench trial is one in which the judge serves as both the judge and the jury. This type of trial is often associated with less serious crimes or probation violations. Generally, it is assumed that the judge would be better able to discern what evidence is admissible, would be a more impartial decision maker, and would pay closer attention to the finer details of the case.

There are some cases in which you might be asked if you want to waive a jury trial and have a bench trial instead. You should learn about the specific effects of each of these options so that you can make an informed decision about how you want your case to proceed.

Source: FindLaw, "Bench Trial or Jury Trial: What's the Difference?," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed July 23, 2016

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