Defendants in criminal cases (not when charges are only civil infractions) have the right to have a jury of their peers decide their guilt or innocence. Therefore, before trial, defendants, need to decide whether to have a jury trial, where the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not, or a bench trial, where the judge decides without a jury. Usually, defendants choose to have a jury trial because they want a jury of their peers to hear the evidence and decide their guilt. But sometimes there may be circumstances where a defense attorney will recommend a bench trial without a jury. In district court a jury will be made up of six persons you help select and in superior court the jury will consist of twelve persons.
Anyone accused of a crime is presumed under the law to be innocent until they plead guilty or are proved guilty at a trial. It is the prosecutor who has to convince a jury or judge at a trial that the defendant is guilty and must provide evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to remain silent and that silence cannot be used against him or her.
Part 3: Pre-Trial, Trial and Verdict
- What is a pre-trial conference date?
- What occurs at a pre-trial conference?
- How soon must a trial take place?
- How are cases decided at a trial?
- What happens at trial?
- What is a verdict?
- Can I appeal a guilty verdict?
- Can I appeal from a guilty plea?
- What happens if I do not go to court?
- What should I do if I miss a probation appointment?
- How can I get help if I am a victim of a crime?
- Where can I get help if I am a criminal defendant?
- More information on the criminal process