The criminal court process has some common steps that are the same for every case. Every case starts with an arrest, which is followed by an Initial Appearance, where the judge determines if the arrestee should be released from jail and, if so, under what terms and conditions. Thereafter, the case will be scheduled for an Arraignment, where the defendant plead Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. Clients of Alan Fowler Law, PLLC always enter a plea of Not Guilty, so their attorneys and paralegals can analyze the evidence, negotiate a plea offer, and make a recommendation to the client. After the Arraignment, the case will be scheduled for a Trial and Docket Sounding. Shortly thereafter, the prosecution is obligated to provide all incriminating and exonerating records, materials, digital media to the defense – this is called Discovery.
But what kind of trial will you get in your case? Will the judge listen to the evidence and sentence you, or will you have to stand and face a jury?
The determination as to whether you will get a judge to hear your case at trial, or a jury, depends on the range of punishment you face. For cases where the possibility of jail time of less than 6 months is the maximum punishment, you can request the judge to hear your case. This is referred to as a bench trial. The benefits of a bench trial over a jury trial are:
● Bench trials are usually faster, so you know the outcome sooner.
● An experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West can predict how a judge will handle a case. A jury, however, is made up of people who are supposed to be your peers, but no attorney can read the mind of six strangers.
● Juries can be swayed by personal feelings and emotions. This could lead to a result that does not make sense, because it could be based on a personal experience. A Judge is more impartial and may be better equipped to keep personal feelings out of the decision making process.
● Judges are more familiar with the law and how it is supposed to be applied to a particular set of facts. This gives you a higher probability that the end result is in line with the law, rather than the product of misapplication of the law by a jury. Also, if you case involves a complicated legal issue, it may be better to have a trained jurist make the decision, rather than a panel of non-lawyers, who would have to be educated about the law by the judge at the end of the case.
The decision to have a trial, whether you qualify for a jury trial or will have the judge decide your fate, is one that should only be made after careful consideration. Several factors go into deciding whether to plea out a case, or go to trial, and we can evaluate those factors for you.
For help with criminal defense and for answer about whether you should enter a plea or go to trial, contact us today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to find out what rights you have, and how to protect those rights.