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Jury Trials

In the state of Florida a defendant may waive a trial by jury if done so in writing by themselves or their counsel with the approval of the state although they have a right to a trial by jury in the county where the alleged crime took place.

In federal matters the defendant may also waive a jury trial by submitting a request in writing; by themselves or their counsel. The government then must consent to this and finally the court must also approve the request.

A trial by jury is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a portion of the United States Bill of Rights which in summary guarantees a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury, in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime occurred, associated with criminal prosecutions for any individual facing charges that are punishable by imprisonment for more than six months on a federal level.

The Supreme Court has applied the safeguards of this amendment to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plea Agreement or Jury Trial
Once defense counsel evaluates all of the applicable evidence in a case obtained by either federal or state authorities, and proper motions are filed and acted upon through legal process, it's at this time, after proper dialogue with the defendant's attorney that the option is now available for the client to join in the decision of if they desire to consent to the possibility of a plea agreement, disposing of the case by a plea, or exercising their right to request a trial by jury.

The selection of the choice of these two options should be made sensibly after the potentials for a favorable outcome is discussed and decided with counsel. The right of a trial by jury is always the unequivocal right of the client's to exercise, and my office at all times respects the decision of any client to exercise that legitimate right.

A trial by jury starts with jury selection. State court felonies in Florida are tried in front of a six member jury, not including any alternate jurors. Someone charged with a capital offense such as first degree murder which upon conviction has a possible death penalty, and then subsequently the penalty phase of the trial is eligible to have a twelve person jury exclusive of jury alternates. Relinquishing this right is allowable. In this nature of situation, The Supreme Court has held that the least amount of jurors to be permitted is six.

The right to a trial by jury is assured in Federal Court by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This relates to serious offenses, which are defined as those that carry a potential penalty of more than six months of incarceration as disparate to petty crimes which are interpreted as a crime which holds a punishment of less than six months in jail. In the case of a serious crime a jury trial is necessary if the defendant so requests. In the instance of the less serious crime the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial.

Jury Selection, Petite Jury
In most state cases the judge permits the lawyers to ask jurors most of the questions needed to qualify the jury; in federal court although a judge has discretion to allow the lawyer to ask questions, for the most part most federal judges conduct the jury selection process themselves.

The jury selection process is recognized as the well-known Latin phrase "voir dire".

Important jury questions involving pretrial publicity, bias based upon race or other relationships a juror may have with a defendant or witness in the case, a juror's feelings about law enforcement witnesses and their credibility and issues involving whether an entire jury panel should be stricken if one juror in answer to questioning make a prejudicial comment are all matters skilled trial counsel should be aware of.

For instance in the case of Batson v. Kentucky the Supreme Court of the United States held that the prosecutor's use of peremptory strikes (strikes to excuse a potential juror without any reason to state the cause for such removal), in even a single case to remove blacks from the jury on account of their race violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. The procedure for a "Batson" challenge is therefor of great importance for trial counsel.

Other issues like juror misconduct may be a basis for new trial. Different rules also apply to the selection of alternate jurors who are always discharged before the verdict is deliberated, as well as the rules governing the removal of a juror during trial. Communications between the judge and jury and trial counsel and jury are strictly regulated.

Anonymous Juries may be impaneled in certain circumstances and most recently in a federal case it was held that it was not error to permit the highly unusual practice of permitting the jury to ask very limited questions of a witness; this is however a unique exception to general practice in state and federal courts.

Mr. Cohen is a skilled trial lawyer who will be aware of what challenges may be made to the "array" of jurors thus insuring the defendant's right to a fair trial. Certain complex cases involve the use of jury questionnaires and pre-trial excusal of jurors based upon their written responses. During the voir dire procedure skilled defense counsel should raise the constitutional issue of whether a potential juror can lay aside his or her opinion and render a fair verdict based upon the evidence presented in court.

When you need an experienced and committed defense jury trial lawyer you can trust in Southern Florida, contact the criminal defense law firm of Michael B. Cohen, P.A. online or call 954.928.0059 in Broward County or if you live in the Palm Beaches call 561.366.8200.
Mr. Cohen has the needed experience to balance an energetic defense and assist with the representation you will need which will result in the best potential outcome based on your individual case.

On the federal level, Mr. Cohen previously worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and as a successful Assistant State Attorney in Broward County, Florida. He also prosecuted cases as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida before founding his criminal defense practice to the public.
Now as a federal and state trial attorney practicing in Fort Lauderdale his much needed experience relating to the law and criminal procedure makes him an outstanding choice to fight all allegations levied by the State of Florida of the Federal Government.

For a free first consultation relating to any criminal legal issues you may be facing call Michael B. Cohen Esq, at: 954.928.0059
All of Mr. Cohen's qualifications can be viewed by clicking here.

To read the difference between a Petit Jury and Grand Jury click here