Wooden Gavel With the Scales of JusticeA 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.

Are You Looking for a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Cincinnati, OH?

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation. 


Steven R. Adams
Steven R. Adams was a criminal defense lawyer dedicated to DUI, OVI, and criminal defense in Cincinnati, Ohio.