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When Do I have the Right to a Jury?

Exactly what does your Constitutional right to a jury trial for criminal prosecutions entail?

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that anybody charged with a crime has the "right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." As our last post explained, the Constitutional right to an attorney has many specific considerations. However, the right to a jury is even more complicated. Here are three factors that affect the meaning of your Sixth Amendment right to a jury:

  • The nature of the crime: The U.S. Supreme Court interprets "criminal prosecutions" to mean offenses punishable by six months or more which means that you are not entitled to a jury for a criminal case unless you are charged with a serious offense.
  • The number of jurors: The right to a jury has a great deal to do with the size of jurors - the U.S. Supreme Court decision established that if a jury is as small as 6 jurors, the verdict must be reached unanimously. While some state juries consist of just 6 or more jurors, federal juries must consider of 12 members, and unanimity is not required.
  • The impartiality requirement: A jury is required to be impartial which means that it must both be diverse enough to fairly represent the community and also be comprised of unbiased jurors. It usually takes an experienced defense attorney to ensure an impartial jury through the meticulous processes of questioning and selection procedures.

Clearly, the right to a jury in criminal cases is more complicated than it would initially seem, and has important implications for those who have been charged with a criminal offense. For example, if you choose to represent yourself, you may be better off being tried by a judge rather than a jury since you will probably be unable to ensure that jurors are unbiased.

To learn more about criminal trial procedures or how an experiencedcriminal defense attorney ensures an unbiased jury, contact The Kyle Law Firm. Our highly successful defense lawyers are ready to offer youa completely free case consultation to anybody facing criminal charges in Texas.

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