Gold colored gavel sitting on a wooden block. On the bottom portion of the image is a blue thick strip with the words "Bench Trials" in white. Below the words "Bench Trials" is the Kevin Fisher Legal logo.

Bench Trials

Bench trials are an important part of the legal process and may benefit you depending on what you are being charged with and the unique circumstances of your case. Keep reading to learn more about what bench trials are, what happens during a bench trial, and why you need a criminal defense attorney for a bench trial!

What is a Bench Trial?

Bench trial refers to a trial that does not happen in front of a jury; instead, the judge handles the trial themselves. Importantly, instead of the jury considering issues regarding the facts and the judge applying the law, during a bench trial, the judge both decides on the facts and applies the facts to the law.

Defendants have a constitutional right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment. The only way a jury trial can be waived is if: 1) the Defendant waives the jury trial in writing, 2) the State agrees to the Defendant’s waiver, and 3) the Court agrees to the jury trial waiver.

In Georgia, bench trials can happen if the Defendant consents in writing in open court or in front of the judge.

What Happens During a Bench Trial?

Similar to a jury trial, during a bench trial, the prosecutor will have the opportunity to present their case to prove the Defendant’s guilt, and the defense attorney will have an opportunity to present evidence establishing the Defendant’s innocence.This means the prosecutor and the defense attorney will have the opportunity to call witnesses, direct and cross-examine the witness, call experts, and present arguments.After the trial’s conclusion, the judge, rather than the jury, will determine if the Defendant is guilty or innocent and the Defendant’s penalty.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer for a Bench Trial?

Bench trials do not automatically happen based on the charges brought by the prosecutor.Instead, the decision to have a bench trial rather than a jury trial is up to the Defendant and is a crucial decision. To make a well-informed decision based on the charges brought and the evidence against you, it is imperative that you have a criminal defense attorney who can weigh the benefits and disadvantages of having a bench trial rather than a jury trial.

For example, one benefit of having a bench trial is that your criminal defense attorney makes arguments based on complicated legal concepts that the judge will easily understand. Another benefit of a bench trial is that bench trials are resolved much faster than jury trials, making scheduling a trial faster.

However, one disadvantage is that one person decides whether you are guilty or innocent – the judge. During bench trials, you lose the advantage of having multiple people look at the case from different perspectives and come to their own conclusion based on the facts.Also, during bench trials, judges are less likely to be swayed based on emotional arguments than juries, who are often swayed by emotional appeals.

Have Questions? Give Me a Call.

I have decades of experience representing clients during bench trials, and I will advocate from the beginning to the end of your case to ensure you receive the best outcome. If you need a criminal defense attorney or have legal questions, give me a call today!

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