Most criminal trials are tried in front of a jury. Juries are made up of ordinary people from the community and are tasked with passing judgment on criminal defendants. While attorneys and judges are running the courtroom and directing the trial, the jury makes the final decision regarding guilt. The right to a jury of your peers is guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Contrary to what you might see on TV, not every criminal trial involves a jury. Most charges require at least the option for a jury, which you have the right to demand. However, certain minor charges are not entitled to jury trials. You can also waive your right to a jury if you wish. Because jury trials do not happen 100% of the time, it is crucial to assert your right to a jury after being criminally charged.
If you face criminal trials and want a jury trial, contact our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys for help. Our team can represent you throughout your proceedings and fight for your right to a fair trial by an impartial jury. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a free consultation.
Your Right to a Jury for Criminal Cases in New Jersey
Most criminal cases provide defendants with the right to demand a jury trial. This right comes from the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and applies in all states. Your right to a jury trial for a criminal case will apply in both state and federal courts. This right has existed for generations and is considered one of the most important and fundamental rights Americans have.
Juries are there to listen to the evidence and arguments presented by attorneys before rendering a verdict. The jury verdict will either be guilty or not guilty. While juries are there to determine guilt, they do not usually have a say in sentencing. In most cases, judges impose sentencing rather than juries. However, a few offenses involve bifurcated trials in which juries determine guilt and then weigh in on the sentence.
Jury trials are not available for all offenses. People charged only with disorderly person offenses or petty disorderly person offenses do not have a right to a jury. However, jury trials are available as a matter of right for indictable crimes, but defendants can choose to waive this right if they feel it is in their best interest. There are a number of reasons why a defendant may wish to waive their right to a jury. You should discuss your options with our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers before making such a big decision.
How to Invoke Your Right to a Jury in New Jersey Criminal Cases
Invoking certain rights may require a direct assertion. Other rights are presumed and need no assertion. The right to a jury trial is so important that your judge is likely to assume ahead of time that you want a jury. However, judges will always give you the choice of opting out of a jury.
At some point during the pre-trial stages, you and your attorney may request a bench trial instead of a jury trial. Bench trials are not automatically granted and may be fought by the prosecutor. If a bench trial is allowed, the judge will act as a jury and determine guilt. Judges tend to be a bit hesitant when allowing a defendant to waive their right to a jury, so you may have to convince the judge before waiving. The right to a trial by jury is highly regarded in the legal profession. To deny a trial by jury for an indictable crime would be outrageously unethical. Judges are exceptionally careful about allowing this right to be waived.
If you decide you want a trial by jury, it will absolutely be granted. You do not have to convince anyone for your desire for a jury to be granted. At this point, the jury selection process will begin and you must actively choose your jurors. Our Cape May criminal defense lawyers can help you through this process.
Can You Demand Who Sits on Your Jury in New Jersey?
Jury selection involves both the prosecution and the defense while the judge moderates the process. Potential jurors are asked questions to determine if they are impartial and capable of serving on a jury. Not everyone called in for jury duty is picked. If people cannot be placed on a jury, they will be dismissed.
You have a right to actively participate in the jury selection and reject jurors you think might be impartial or have a bias against you. You will usually have peremptory challenges and challenges for cause at your disposal. Peremptory challenges allow you to dismiss just because. It can be based on gut feeling or bad vibes you get from a potential juror. These challenges are limited and may not be used for arbitrary reasons like race or gender.
On the other hand, challenges for cause are unlimited and can be used if there is any good reason a juror should be dismissed. These challenges are typically used when a defendant has a clear and articulable reason for being unable to serve. For example, if a potential juror personally knows the defendant or the prosecutor, they can be dismissed with a challenge for cause. Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers will be by your side during jury selection and help you select the best jury possible.
Pros and Cons of a Trial by Jury for Criminal Cases in New Jersey
You have the right to demand a jury in criminal cases in New Jersey, but there are pros and cons to having a jury hear your case. It is crucial that you speak to our experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney about your case so we can figure out the best option for you. Juries are great in some cases, but a detriment in others.
One advantage of a jury trial is that defendants can actively participate in jury selection. The final jury is not determined by chance. Instead, a large jury pool is gathered, and individuals are questioned about their ability to be impartial. Both the prosecutor and defendant can accept or deny jurors based on how they answer questions. Additionally, juries must reach unanimous verdicts. If you are to be convicted, all jury members must agree, making it harder for the prosecution to secure a conviction. Jurors also tend to use more common sense when making decisions. Even if there is strong evidence against you, jurors are free to make their final decision based on things like personal experiences and gut instincts.
There are some downsides to having a jury. While jurors can use common sense, they may think more with their hearts than their heads. Emotionally charged cases may not bode well for a defendant. There is also a risk of juror bias. A juror may be against you from the beginning for arbitrary reasons that you are unaware of. Finally, jurors are just ordinary people and may not be equipped to be reasonable jurors. They can become overwhelmed by the gravity of their job and make rash decisions. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help you decide if a jury trial is suitable for your case.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys to Discuss Your Case Today
If you are charged with a crime, you almost always have a right to a jury trial. Our Haddonfield criminal defense lawyers will help you assert this right and hopefully get a fair trial. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a free consultation.