Which Is Better: A Settlement, A Bench Trial Or A Jury Trial?
If you are facing criminal charges, there is a very good possibility that the case will be settled before you ever make it to court. According to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), not even three percent of criminal cases—on both the federal and state levels—ever make it to trial in this country. Instead, a plea agreement is reached and defendants wind up accepting lesser charges in return for a reduced sentence. Notwithstanding the statistics, however, defendants are guaranteed the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, and that option is available regardless of the charges. Sometimes, that is waived in favor of a bench trial where a judge determines the outcomes. Which option is best?
Understanding the Choices
The fact of the matter is, there is no one correct answer to that question. Every case is different, and a defendant must carefully weigh the opportunities and possible consequences of each with the counsel of a trusted defense attorney. Some of the issues that should be considered if a plea bargain is offered include:
- A guilty plea will likely produce a more tolerable sentence than the worst-case scenario of a guilty verdict;
- The cost of a trial puts it out of reach for many defendants unless they are comfortable with an overworked, underpaid court-appointed attorney;
- A guilty plea will put a stain on one’s record, which will be difficult to swallow for the innocent;
- A felony conviction will have long-term consequences related to housing, employment, relationships, etc.;
- The possibility of being found innocent and escaping penalties altogether may be promising.
Bench Trial or Jury Trial?
In the event a defendant does choose to go forward with a trial, would a jury provide a more positive outcome than a judge? While it’s definitely impossible to know for sure, there are some factors worth thinking about:
- How high-profile is the case? What are the chances of finding a jury who knows nothing about it and has no preconceived notions?
- What is the judge’s history with matters similar to yours? Are you looking at someone who has a record of lenience or someone who throws the book at defendants in similar cases?
- Is your defense based mainly on technical issues that may be difficult for a jury to grasp? Perhaps a dispassionate judge who is accustomed to applying the facts to the law will give you a better shot at justice.
- Are the facts of the case inflammatory? Might a jury be swayed by juicy, but immaterial factors that a judge would be able to ignore?
- On the other hand, are there mitigating facts that might make you appear more sympathetic to a jury, but that a judge would consider inconsequential based on other factors?
Making the Best Call
At Lobo Law, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys have experience with state and federal criminal cases and are prepared to go forward with the wishes of our clients. We can provide our best guidance, and ultimately will fight for the best possible outcomes for you. To discuss the possibilities, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.