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Family and Criminal Law Blog

Thursday, October 29, 2020

What Are the Differences Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial?

Should you be facing the possibility of a criminal trial, you will need to decide whether or not you want a jury trial or a bench trial. The basic difference between the two is easy enough to state. A jury trial is when a criminal case is presented before a jury and the jury decides on the verdict. A bench trial is when the case is presented to a judge and a judge renders the verdict. While this describes the basic differences between a jury trial and a bench trial, there are far more intricacies that further differentiate the two. In order to make the selection that best suits you and your situation, it is important to have an understanding as to what really distinguishes these two types of trials.

What are the Differences Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial?

There are several important potential benefits of a bench trial to consider as they are not generally available in a jury trial. For instance, a bench trial is often less time consuming than a jury trial. Jury selection and the format of a jury trial make it much more likely to be a time-intensive trial. A bench trial is often much more simplified. The judge clearly has an understanding of the rules of evidence and the rules of law and procedure. This significantly cuts down on time. In fact, a bench trial is commonly preferred by the defense when the case presents complex facts or legal issues as a judge is more adept at processing such issues.

Bench trials also often tend to be less formal. This can be nice as trials tend to be stressful enough as is. The more informal nature that can come with a bench trial can have a lot of benefits. In fact, the defendant attorney and prosecuting attorney are sometimes permitted to have discussions and even reach agreements on certain facts relevant to the case.

In a jury trial, a panel of the defendant’s peers is gathered in order to weigh the cases presented and render a verdict. In most cases, a jury is composed of twelve individuals that have been screened through the jury selection process. While a jury trial can be much more formal than a bench trial, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The added formalities in a jury trial can have benefits. For instance, a bench trial does not need jury instructions, for obvious reasons. Jury instructions, however, can potentially offer grounds for an appeal later on. It is not uncommon for an attorney to argue on appeal that the judge provided reversible error in the presentation of the jury instructions. Additionally, jury trials can often be favored in cases where the facts are particularly interesting or the defendant is a particularly sympathetic party. Juries are often more easily swayed by appeals to emotion and humanity than judges.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

At Navarrete & Schwartz, our team of skilled criminal defense attorneys knows that every step in the criminal justice process comes with critical decisions that need to be made. We are here to protect our clients’ best interests at every point. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.


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Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C. is located in Midland, Texas and serves the surrounding cities and counties, including: Odessa in Ector County, Andrews County, Martin County, Howard County, Winkler County and Crane County.



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