Who Will Make the Decision in My Criminal Case: A Judge or Jury?
If you are charged with a crime, you will have the choice to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, your case will go to trial. In many cases in Virginia, you are likely to have a bench trial. A “bench trial” is when a judge, rather than a jury, hears the evidence in a case and decides whether you are guilty to not guilty. In serious cases in Virginia, a defendant has the option to request a jury trial or a bench trial. In a jury trial, the judge will make important legal rulings about what kinds of evidence can be admitted, but the jury hears the evidence and decides whether you are guilty or not guilty.
Do you have a criminal case pending? Keep reading to learn more about how your criminal case in Virginia may be tried.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Cases
In general, criminal cases fall into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that carries a potential jail term of one year or less; whereas felony crimes are the most serious types of offenses and come with severe punishments. Generally, misdemeanor cases are heard by a judge without a jury. In felony cases, the defendant (the person charged with the crime) and the Commonwealth (the prosecutor for the government) decide whether a case is heard by a judge or a jury.
Trial by Jury
A defendant has a right to a trial by a jury under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, you can waive that right if you (with the advice of your attorney) believe it is your best interest, and if the prosecutor and the judge agree to proceed without a jury.
For adult defendants, if a jury trial is requested, the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. In Virginia, the jury will also decide a defendant’s sentence. If the defendant is a juvenile who is being tried as an adult, the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not, but the judge will determine the punishment.
Bench Trial vs. Trial by Jury
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is extremely important to carefully consider all of your options. The decision whether to ask for a bench trial or a jury trial depends on several factors that are specific to an individual case. We strongly recommend that you contact an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney who can advise you on the pros and cons of your own unique case.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, it is essential that you move quickly to hire a criminal defense team that can provide you with essential legal advice on your case.
Here at The Center for Criminal and Immigration Law, we focus on criminal defense and are ready to work hard to obtain the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact us for a consultation on how we can help your case.
Do you want to know if you are eligible to apply for a driver’s license as an immigrant? Do you need quality immigration advice you can trust? Contact the boutique law firm, The Center for Criminal and Immigration Law, for a consultation today!