suhrelaw | September 21, 2017 | Criminal Law
Have you been recently charged with a crime? Have you hired an attorney? Now the prosecutor has offered you a plea bargain and you don’t know if you should take the deal or go to trial. This is a tough spot to be in, and only you can make that decision. However, the attorneys at Suhre and Associates are available to use their experience and knowledge to help you make the most informed decision possible. The following is a brief description of the three ways in which a case can be resolved and the positives and negatives of each scenario.
Depending on the situation, this could be the best option. First- you must look at the charges you’re facing. How serious are they? If you were to get convicted of this offense, how would it affect your life? Second- look at the facts of the case and the evidence that the prosecutor has to prove the charges. Then, look at what the prosecutor is offering. How much of a reduction is it? Is there an agreed upon sentence? Will the judge comply with the agreed upon sentence? And is the agreed upon sentence something that you could live with?
For example: You are facing an OVI charge, and the prosecutor offers a reckless driving.
First: evaluate the charges. What impact would an OVI have on my life? Are you in a field where you could lose your job? Do you have a CDL? Do you have Priors? All things to consider.
Second: evaluate the evidence. Why did you get pulled over? Does your driving look impaired? Did you do the field sobriety tests? Did you do them well? Did you do them poorly? Did you blow? If you did- how high was the test? What can the prosecutor prove? And if you were to take it to trial, do you have a sellable theory of defense? All important things to consider.
Third: evaluate the prosecutor’s offer. What impacts does the reduced charge have on your life? And is there an agreed upon sentence. If the prosecutor is going to give you the reckless driving, but still want 30 days in jail, or a 3 year license suspension, or a you to wear a SCRAM bracelet for 60 days… is that really “worth it?” On the other hand; if the prosecutor is asking for a fine, a 3 day Driver’s intervention program, and a 6 month suspension, that may be better than the alternative if you were to get convicted in trial.
The criminal defense attorneys at Suhre and Associates can help you with this evaluation and answer any question you may have about the plea bargain process.
What is a “Bench Trial?” It is exactly what it sounds like… It is a trial to the “bench” or to the judge. This means that there is no jury and the judge makes all evidentiary and fact finding decisions. So, rather than a jury determine guilt or innocence, the judge makes the decision.
What are the benefits of a bench trial?
First of all, a bench trial can be completed substantially faster than a jury trial. The judge already understands the law, so the attorney doesn’t need to teach or spoon feed jury instructions to 8-12 lay persons.
Depending on the county, some jury trials are done after the daily criminal docket. This means, that your trial will start after lunch and go throughout the afternoon. Then, the next day there will be the court’s normal docket and your trial will progress in afternoon. This goes on for as many days as necessary to complete the trial. Bench trials are also done after a morning docket in these counties, but without jury selection, extensive opening statements, long jury instructions, and the time it takes to make a jury trial progress, a bench trial can be completed a lot faster.
Second, if your defense theory is very technical or based on law or a legal defense, then it may be more appropriate to argue that to a judge. Judges are lawyers. They have a Juris Doctor and have taken the bar exam. They have an understanding of the law and the defenses to criminal accusations that a jury does not.
What are the negatives of a bench trial?
There is one person who makes the decision. The judge gets to hear all of the evidence and make his or her decision. There is no jury of your peers to decide the case. If emotion or sympathy could potentially sway a jury in your favor, it would not work for most judges. Judges are not as inclined to let emotion motivate their decision like a jury can.
What is a Jury Trial? In Ohio, a misdemeanor jury trial is heard by 8 jurors and one alternate. A felony jury is heard by 12 jurors and 2 alternates. The jury is selected through the voir dire process and then the trial progresses as normal.
What are the benefits of a jury trial?
In a jury trial, if all 8 jurors believe you are not guilty, then the case results in an acquittal. If all 8 jurors agree that you are guilty, then you are convicted. If all jurors can’t come to an agreement, the result is a “hung jury.” Even if it’s 7-1. After a hung jury, the prosecutor’s office decides what happens next. They can dismiss the charges, offer you a plea bargain, or try it again. It’s their decision.
Convincing 8 strangers beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty of each and every element of a crime is challenging. This is why many defense attorneys elect to have a bench trial rather than a jury. If your criminal defense attorney can convince one juror that the state has not proven their case, you cannot be convicted.
What are the negatives of a jury?
Juries are 100% unpredictable. You have no control of the jury panel. You have no idea who is going to wind up in those 8 seats. And you have no idea what each of them feels is important. Every attorney has a story of a jury verdict that has surprised them.
Why is your attorney important when it comes to a jury trial?
Trying a case to a jury is a very unique skill that the attorneys at Suhre and Associates have mastered. Many attorneys go their entire career without ever trying a case in front of a jury.
It is important to connect to the jury, explain the law, explain the facts, and relate to the jury. Once you lose a juror it is very difficult to win them back. It is important to have an attorney who is comfortable in the courtroom. Who has tried cases. And who knows how to try cases to a jury.
If you are facing criminal charges, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre and Associates. They will help guide you through the process.