A misdemeanor case in Ohio can either be heard by a jury or litigated in front of a lone judge (called a bench trial). It is generally up to the attorneys in the case to choose between a bench trial or jury trial—and there are some significant differences between the two that may harm your case.
What Happens in a Bench Trial?
In bench trials, the entire case is decided by a judge without the assistance of a jury. The judge in a bench trial:
- Rules on the admissibility of evidence
- Issues a ruling on any questions of law
- Determines credibility of each witness’s testimony
- Decides whether the defendant is guilty or innocent
- Determines the penalties for a guilty verdict
What Happens in a Jury Trial?
In a jury trial, evidence is presented before randomly selected individuals who determine whether a defendant is guilty or innocent. In an Ohio misdemeanor case:
- There are only 8 jurors instead of 12
- The jury does not decide the punishment for the crime (in Kentucky, the jury DOES determine the punishment for a guilty verdict)
- It typically takes longer than bench trials due to the jury selection process and the time it takes to educate the jurors on technical aspects of the case
- The jury finding must be unanimous and based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt
- The defendant may be offered a plea bargain if a verdict is not reached
Do I Want a Bench Trial or Jury Trial for a Misdemeanor Charge?
This is a tough question, and the answer depends on the specific details of the case. In some cases, a jury may be more sympathetic to an offender (such as if they were underage when the crime was committed). In others, a jury may side with the alleged victim.
As your defense attorney, I am diligent in selecting the trial process that has the most benefit to you. When I meet with the prosecutor and the judge to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case, I get a sense of how the judge feels and whether they are likely to give a favorable ruling. If the judge seems unmoved by your situation, I will always select a jury trial.
If you have recently been accused of committing a misdemeanor offense in Ohio, The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC is here to help protect your rights. Call (513) 929-9333 today to get the answers you need in your free case evaluation.