What a defendant should consider in deciding whether to go to a jury trial
As a Criminal Defense Attorney in Seattle there almost always comes a time when I speak with a client or defendant about the possibility of a jury trial. In making that decision a defendant needs to consider several factors in determining whether to move forward with a jury trial in a criminal case.
How much will a jury trial cost?
This is probably the biggest factor a defendant must consider. More so for a defendant who has retained private counsel than a defendant represented by a court-appointed public defender. These costs can occur in several instances. The first would be whether the criminal defense attorney would charge an additional fee for a jury trial. This fee can vary depending on the length of the trial and the complexity of the case. A second additional cost would be any fees for the use of an expert witness. Often times these are forwarded to the client from the defense attorney. Lastly, a defendant should consider out of pocket expenses. For example, if the defendant lives out of state and the jury trial would last 2-3 weeks they need to consider housing and food expenses.
How long will a jury trial take?
This factor overlaps a little bit of pocket expenses. But if a jury trial is going to take 2-3 weeks for example that is 2-3 weeks the defendant needs to take off from work, be away from family, etc. An additional factor besides the length of the trial would a convenience issue. What I mean by this is oftentimes a jury trial doesn’t start when it is first scheduled. Sometimes there isn’t a courtroom available, sometimes there aren’t enough jurors, sometimes one of the parties is not available or is out sick. There is nothing more frustrating for a defendant then taking 2 weeks off of work, showing up to the date of the jury trial, and being told to come back in a few days because there isn’t a courtroom available, or the Prosecutor is in a trial in another matter.
How are the chances at trial?
The last factor a defendant should consider is what will happen at the jury trial. What are the chances of prevailing? What are the chances of being found guilty? Any criminal defense attorney that has experience will be able to provide a good idea to their client about their chances. Obviously there are circumstances that are unknown. For example, the types of jurors that will be in the pool, pretrial rulings a Judge will make, etc. But the basic strengths and weaknesses of the case should be known and conveyed to the defendant.