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.[1]

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.[2] 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.





The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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