Anyone who is charged with a criminal offense in Texas has the right to a trial by jury. In most cases, the accused does choose a jury trial if the charges cannot be resolved by agreement. In some cases, however, it may be advantageous to waive a jury trial and request a trial before the court, or a bench trial, to be held, which means that the judge would decide the case following trial without a jury present. Normally, a jury would decide guilt or innocence, and the judge would sentence the individual based on the jury’s findings. In the case of a bench trial, the judge would decide guilt or innocence and also decide the sentence for the individual.
There are a variety of circumstances in which one might want to opt for a bench trial. If the issues of law are complex, for instance, you might have more confidence in the ability of a fair and impartial judge to understand the law and apply it to the facts of your case in order reach a correct result. Since judges normally do not like to have their decisions reversed on appeal, they typically will be focused on truly deciding the case on its merits. With a jury, however, you must rely on the ability of the individual juror to both comprehend what may be a complicated issue of law and accurately apply the law to the facts.
Under Texas law, however, the state is not required to agree to a bench trial in the prosecution of a criminal offense. As a result, individuals who wish to waive a jury trial in lieu of having a bench trial may be unable to do so if the prosecutor doesn’t agree.
The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.