The benefits of a judge trial versus a jury trial

One common question criminal defense attorneys get asked by their clients is whether it’s in their best interest to pursue a trial by judge or jury. While the circumstances surrounding the crime you’ve been charged with will greatly impact the choice you make, each has their own unique benefits.

Defendants who elect to have a judge decide their fate avoid many of the administrative or procedural practices associated with impaneling juries. Not only do they avoid having to select a jury in the first place, but avoid having to make pay a jury deposit to the court. Defendants and their attorneys also avoid having to make opening statements to a jury and needing to draft jury instructions for the judge.

With jury trials, arguments have to be structured so that they are presented in alignment with procedural rules. This is not necessary when presenting a case in front of a judge. Additionally, a judge might actually allow evidence to be presented in a case that he or she otherwise would not if it were presented in front of a jury instead.

In cases in which evidence is presented in front of a jury, even if it’s ultimately objected to, it has the potential to resonate in the minds of jurors nevertheless. This can be particularly damaging to a client’s case.

In choosing what type of trial is best for your case, it’s also important to take into account the particular circumstances. If it centers around a certain legal question, you may find that having a judge ultimately decide your fate is particularly more effective than having a jury do so.

However, if empathy is what you’re seeking, you might choose to pursue a jury trial instead. Doing so has been shown to be an effective way to drum up some degree of sympathy for the defendant. This can be important to the outcome of a case given that studies show that juries have a tendency to respond more to emotions than they do evidence.

In learning more about the specifics surrounding your charges, an Orange County, California criminal defense attorney may be able to provide the necessary guidance to understand whether a judge or jury trial may give way to the best outcome in your criminal case.

Source:, “Judge versus jury trials,” accessed May 22, 2017

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