What are the differences between a jury trial and a bench trial? This is an issue that still comes up on our YouTube page (BostonLawGroupLLC), as it is the source of comments and video views. Although I did a video on this issue years ago, because of its popularity, I have decided to update this topic and provide more information.
Before talking about some of the notable differences between the two, I must remind you that I am giving general information about how these issues are handled in Maryland. If you have specific issues as they purport to your facts, you need to talk with your own attorney about your issues. Also, each state can have difference rules for a bench trial versus a jury trial, so keep that in mind.
WHAT IS A JURY TRIAL?
In a jury trial, people from your community will be chosen to render a verdict in your case. To do this, the jury will listen to all the facts and evidence which is produced in trial. A jury has control over the factual issues in a trial. So, whether a witness is telling the truth will be something that the jury will decide. How much weight to give to evidence will be something else that will be controlled by the jury.
During a jury trial, when legal issues are brought up, these will be taken care of by the judge. For example, if a witness is testifying as to what someone else told them, then an objection might be made to the judge. Once this happens, the judge will make the legal ruling on the objection. The jury will have no control over this issue. In addition, the judge will also instruct the jury as to the relevant law that will be used in the case, as the jury applies the facts to the law.
The biggest takeaway from this section is that anything that is connected to the law, the judge will have dominion. On the other hand, anything that is connected to the facts of the case, be it character of the witnesses, how the facts play out, etc.….these issues will be in the domain of the jury, with the jury ultimately rendering a verdict in the case.
WHAT IS A BENCH TRIAL?
A bench trial can have some noticeable differences from a jury trial, with the main notable difference is that there is no jury to do the fact finding in the case. The judge in a bench trial acts as the fact finder and the one who heads up the legal issues presented. A judge partakes in double duty when there is a bench trial.
For instance, using the same example above regarding the objection, the judge in a bench trial will rule on the objection (a legal issue) while compiling the facts of the case (a factual issue). This information can be a shock for some people because they are not aware that a judge in a bench trial essentially wears two hats. The judge in a bench trial will render a ruling in the case.
JURY TRIAL AND A BENCH TRIAL…
Hopefully now you can see the differences between the two. Understanding these issues will help you figure out with your attorney case strategy. Things to keep in mind when figuring which way to go is how are the issues likely to play out in your case? Is your case strong on facts but weak on law, or weak on facts but strong on law? The answers to these questions might be important when deciding what is best. Regardless, if you have specific trial strategy you should follow up with your own attorney.
Marcus B. Boston, Esq.
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815
1-833-4 BABY HELP