What Are the Benefits of a Judge Trial?

By David Hammond

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you may face the difficult choice of whether you want a bench trial or trial by jury. A bench trial is another way to say that you want a trial by judge, or you want a trial where the judge, as opposed to a jury, decides your fate. It is a big decision and one that commonly begs the question as to what the benefits of a judge trial may be. Here, we will discuss those potential benefits in more detail.

What are the benefits of a judge trial?

One of the major benefits of a judge trial is simply that proceedings in a judge trial tend to be much less informal. A judge is less likely to strictly enforce and insist on courtroom procedural rules and is even likely to overlook many of the rules of evidence that become so hotly contested in jury trials. A judge trial can, in turn, be much less stressful for a defendant. It is only the judge, defendant, and attorneys. There is no need to face a box of jurors watching the defendant’s every facial expression throughout the trial.

Additionally, defendants and their attorneys do not have to make opening statements in a judge trial. There is also no need to have jury instructions drafted for the judge. While there is a rather strict procedure for the structuring of arguments at a jury trial, such formality is often waived at a judge trial. A judge is even likely to accept evidence in a case that would otherwise be denied if a jury was present. The attorneys, both defense and prosecuting, are also more likely to be given the opportunity to discuss, and even agree upon, certain relevant facts of the case. Such flexibility can have extensive advantages.

Because of the formalities that must be observed and the fact that a jury would need to be selected, judge trials are often much less time consuming than jury trials.  These are things worth considering when evaluating your options.

It is also important when considering choosing a judge trial over a jury trial that you take your particular case and charge into account. Some cases can present very complex legal questions. Having a judge decide these complexities as opposed to leaving it to a jury to unravel legal knots can be very beneficial. In fact, it is common for defendants in cases involving complex facts or more complicated legal issues to opt for a judge trial as opposed to leaving it up to a jury to try and understand things and weigh in their favor.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

At the end of a judge trial, the judge renders the verdict as to whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. The decision to opt for a judge trial or jury trial can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Talk through your options with the team of experienced criminal defense attorneys at CDH Law. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.