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What Does It Mean To Have A Jury Trial?

Inherent in our analysis of the right to a speedy trial, is the prinicple that a defendant has a constitutional right to to be heard, in other words, have a right to have a fair trial. The phrase fair trial means a defendant has a right to a jury trial. The right to a trial, rather a jury trial, means that a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury determination that he or she is guilty of EVERY element of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thus, a defendant cannot be forced to waive a jury trial. It is his or her right to have a jury trial and it is their decision as to whether he or she will proceed to a jury trial, waive a jury trial and have a bench trial, or plead guilty to the offense.

The right to a jury trial means more than just the above. It also means, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, any other fact that will increase the penalty for a crime beyond the statutory maximum MUST be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

We will explore this latter statement this week. If you have been charged with a theft crime, contact a Plano criminal defense lawyer.