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Why Do People Waive Their Right to a Jury Trial?

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges in Phoenix or Tempe, you have a lot to consider. Do you take a plea deal? Do you plead not guilty? Do you waive your right to a jury trial? Or, do you take your case to trial? Understandably, the right answer is very fact specific, but these are all valid questions that you’ll have to entertain before deciding on the appropriate course of action in your case.

For the purposes of this post, we are specifically going to address waiving your right to a jury trial, and why some criminal defendants opt to choose this route. In reality, there can be several reasons, one of them being that it’s a lot harder to predict a jury over a judge. Often, you can look at a judge’s track record and the statistics and get a fairly good idea of how a judge will act under certain circumstances.

Reasons to Forgo a Jury Trial

Juries are under no obligation to explain their verdicts to defendants. Judges on the other hand, can state their reason on the record. This makes it easier for a defendant to file an appeal because the judge’s reason can provide the defendant with the grounds they need to appeal the judge’s decision.

When a defendant has a “technical defense,” it’s often better to use a judge, whereas a jury might convict someone out of spite. Interestingly, sometimes a defendant will be sent to jail and before their attorney has the opportunity to talk them into waiving their jury trial, the inmates have already done that for the defendant. In this scenario, the inmate discovers that it’s the opinion of the jail that he or she is better off waiving their right to a jury trial.

Generally, juries are much harder to predict than judges, especially since each juror’s knowledge, education, experience, and prejudices are unknown. In fact, the defense community is well-aware that juries are not the best at determining guilt, especially in complicated cases involving detailed legal issues.

Related: Steps in an Arizona Criminal Case

In contrast, judges are known for being more objective and less susceptible to personal bias. Judges are not perfect by any means, but they can be much better than juries at determining guilt in light of the applicable laws.

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