If you face criminal charges and you decide to go to trial, you can choose between having a judge or a jury preside over your case. While most cases will end in a settlement or agreement outside of court, this is still something you need to think about.
The American Bar Association explains many people choose a jury trial because they want judgment from their peers who are people just like them with not a lot of knowledge of the law. They feel this will give them a better chance of winning. However, there are benefits to choosing a judge or bench trial.
A judge will get more information about the case than a jury. In a jury trial, the jury is only present to hear the opening and closing statements and arguments. The judge hears everything. He or she has to make a ruling during pre-trial and has exposure to a lot more information about the case.
In addition, the judge has a wealth of legal knowledge that the jury will never have. He or she knows best how to apply the law to your case and is more likely to depend on the law to shape his or her opinion.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of choosing a bench trial is that you get to know exactly who is hearing your case. You can find information about the judge and his previous rulings in cases similar to yours. It can be a huge benefit in the shaping of your defense.
You never have this with a jury because you will not get to know each individual or be able to do background research on the jury members prior to your trial.
The choice is always yours to go with a bench or jury trial. Just make sure that you carefully weigh the options and make a choice that suits your case the best.