Two hundred fifty years ago, jury trials resolved almost all criminal matters in the United States. That’s no longer the case. But jury trials are still a unique pillar of our system. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of the world’s jury trials occur in the United States.
Like a bench trial and out-of-court settlement, other options were completely unavailable two hundred and fifty years ago. Now, one of these other options might be the best way to resolve a criminal case. They are certainly the most common criminal case endings in Monroe County.
Because of all these choices, you need a strong criminal defense attorney if you were arrested in Rochester NY. It all starts with a thorough case evaluation. Then, whatever option is best, an attorney can obtain the best possible result under the circumstances.
Is a Jury Trial Best?
Conventional wisdom states that you need two things to win a jury trial. You need a sympathetic defendant and a hook for the jury to hang its hat on.
There are several ways to make defendants sympathetic. The so-called “nerd defense” is a good example. Jurors have a more positive view of defendants who wear glasses, especially if the defendant is charged with a violent crime. In other cases, an attorney can cast the defendant as a good person who made a wrong choice and is apologetic. In a few cases, there is evidence that the police and/or prosecutor are trying to railroad the defendant.
There’s still the matter of a hook. Frequently, legal defense is available, but it was not strong enough to merit dismissal. For example, the evidence in a murder case might be largely circumstantial. That proof is theoretically enough to support a conviction. But it might not be enough to sway skeptical jurors.
Is a Bench Trial (Non-Jury Trial) Best?
Judges are people too. So, emotional appeals sometimes work. But for the most part, judges are also relatively dispassionate. So, a bench trial might be best if you only have a legal defense. That’s especially true if there was no pretrial dismissal hearing. If the judge has rejected the legal argument once, it’s doubtful that s/he will reverse course and embrace it.
Speed is sometimes a consideration as well. It used to be that many defendants waited more than a year for a jury trial. Since the days of gathering large numbers of jurors for multiple trials are over, the wait times are even longer now. The wait time for a bench trial date might be a few months or a few weeks if the defendant is in jail.
On a related note, jury trials are much more time-consuming. Therefore much more expensive than bench trials. A felony jury trial usually lasts at least several days. A felony bench trial might be over in a few hours.
Other Options if You Were Arrested in Rochester NY
Hybrid mini-trials are sometimes available in Monroe County. Attorneys for both sides make opening arguments. Then, jurors decide the case based solely on those arguments. A slow plea might be available as well. The defendant pleads guilty and asks jurors to assess punishment. Slow pleas are often a good idea if the defendant is sympathetic, but there is no legal hook.
Plea bargains resolve the vast majority of criminal cases in New York. A criminal defense attorney uses legal defenses or weaknesses in the state’s claim to obtain a favorable out-of-court settlement. The possibility of an adverse result at trial is usually enough to convince overworked prosecutors to make a deal. These settlements usually include reduced charges and/or a lighter sentence.
Reach Out to a Compassionate Attorney
If you were arrested in Rochester NY, you have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.