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The Constitutional Right to a Jury Trial in New York Criminal Cases

The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights provide many invaluable rights to citizens. Among the most important rights included in these documents is the right to a jury trial. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that defendants are entitled to “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

In New York, people who are facing certain misdemeanor charges are entitled to a jury that consists of six jurors. In New York City, individuals charged with “B” misdemeanors which carry a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.  May not be entitled to a jury trial.  Although that issue has become more complicated with the the New York Court of Appeals ruling that immigrants facing deportation would be entitled to a jury trial even for a “B” misdemeanor.  Defendants facing felony charges are entitled to a jury of 12 people. In misdemeanor and felony trials, all jurors must be unanimous before a defendant can be found guilty or not guilty. In the event that the jurors cannot come to a unanimous decision, the court will eventually declare a mistrial, and the prosecution will have the ability to retry the case.

All New York criminal cases are either heard by a judge or by a jury. A trial can be heard by a judge only if the defendant waives their right to a jury trial. This type of trial is commonly known as a “waiver” or “bench” trial. The decision whether to have a judge or a jury hear a case is one that rests with the defendant himself, rather than with his attorney. Of course, defendants often consult with a criminal defense attorney when making the decision because an experienced defense attorney can often provide valuable input. There are several reasons why a defendant may choose to have a judge hear their case rather than a jury.

Perhaps the most common reason why a defendant may waive their right to a jury and proceed with a bench trial is that the issues presented in the case involve technical legal determinations. Judges routinely deal with technical legal issues, and they are generally seen as a better forum for cases involving these issues. Another reason why a defendant may choose to have a judge hear their case is if the case involves emotional or highly sensitive issues, such as a child victim. In these cases, judges are often better forums because they are less likely to be swayed by emotions, considering that they see serious cases every day. On the other hand, a jury may be a good choice for cases that involve the credibility of witnesses.

Have You Been Arrested for a Crime?

If you have recently been arrested for a crime in New York, contact the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates for immediate assistance. Our team of skilled New York City criminal defense lawyers has decades of experience representing clients who are facing all types of serious misdemeanor and felony charges, including New York drug crimes and gun offenses. We also represent clients across the state in OWI cases, violent crime cases, and theft crime cases. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the allegations that have been made against you, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.