The Michigan criminal justice system allows for two different types of trials: bench trial and jury trial. Understanding the difference between the two is an important part of preparing for a successful trial outcome. Read on to learn more.
A defendant is entitled to a trial. A bench trial takes place in the presence of a judge only. The judge is the finder of fact and the ruler of law. There is no jury of community peers involved to determine the outcome of the case. The judge is the sole party charged with determining the credibility of the evidence presented at trial and the outcome of the case in accordance with state law.
A jury trial is more formal and time consuming than a bench trial. If you are charged with a misdemeanor in Ann Arbor, 6 jury members will be selected. For a felony charge, 12 jury members are selected. Typcially, alternate jurors are also selected in both misdemeanor and felony cases. A jury trial will be sought if your attorney believes the jury will be more sympathetic to your case than a judge. If your case has a strong emotional appeal, it may be in your best interest to choose a trial by jury.
Which One is Better?
If you have been charged with a DUI, a bench trial may be beneficial if you seek to represent yourself (which I highly recommend you don’t). A bench trial allows you to forgo the process of jury selection and jury instructions submitted to the court. A bench trial is also faster because the judge often returns a finding quicker than a jury. A major disadvantage of a bench trial is that there is only one finder of fact. There are no jurors involved to discuss and challenge what is and isn’t fact.
In a jury trial, the jury is instructed to listen to evidence presented by each side and render a verdict based on that information. The judge’s sole responsibility is to address questions of law and procedure. For example, the judge will address any objections and rulings on motions asserted by counsel.
Deciding on whether to have a bench or jury trial is a complex decision. It is helpful to rely on the experience and knowledge of a trial lawyer in making the decision. That trial lawyer may be able to help you favorably resolve the case without the time and expense of a trial.
Contact Ann Arbor DUI Attorney
I highly encourage you to contact an Ann Arbor DUI attorney if you have been charged with drunk driving. I can review your case and provide you with legal guidance and advice on how to proceed through the criminal justice system. Each DUI case is unique. Contact an experienced attorney prior to deciding whether you should pursue a jury or bench trial. In some cases, a trial may not be necessary or advisable.