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The Right to Trial by Jury

Posted on in Criminal Defense

CT defense lawyerUnder most circumstances, the federal Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a trial by jury. Whether this right applies in your case depends on the severity of the offense. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that the crime must carry a penalty of more than six months’ imprisonment).

Connecticut also guarantees criminal defendants a jury trial. The right only exists when the maximum penalty is at least a $200 fine. If the offense involves violations payable through the Centralized Infractions Bureau (a traffic violation) then the maximum penalty must be more than $500. Unless the law says otherwise, the jury will consist of six people.

Can I Waive My Right to a Jury Trial?

The judge must advise the defendant of his or her right to a jury trial at the plea hearing (when the defendant is formally charged and before the judge for the first time). If the defendant does not “claim a jury” at the hearing, then the right is considered waived. However, the judge may reinstate the right within 10 days if the defendant did not understand his or her rights, or if the judge thinks justice will not be served without a jury.

Do not waive your right to a trial by jury without talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can also make sure that you properly claim your right to a jury trial.

Understanding the Jury Selection Process

Jury selection is the method used to randomly select community members to serve on a jury. You must be at least 18 years old to serve on a jury. Certain people are automatically exempt from jury service, including:

  • Active military service members;
  • Members of a fire or police department; and
  • Current elected and appointed government officials.

Other people might be eligible for an exemption, including:

  • People who are over 75 years old;
  • Certain caregivers (those caring for the elderly or ill or for children younger than 12);
  • Volunteer safety personnel (like volunteer firefighters); and
  • Someone for whom jury service is extremely inconvenient.

Connecticut has a unique jury selection process. Unlike all other states, Connecticut practices individual voir dire (the legal term for jury selection), which gives lawyers from both sides the opportunity to interview prospective jurors individually and privately. The goal is to find jurors who will be fair and impartial. But it also prolongs the selection process and the prosecution timeline.

Reach Out to Us for Help Today

Reach out to the skilled Fairfield criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner today if you are arrested or charged with a crime. We will mount an effective defense on your behalf and guide you through the criminal prosecution process, including the right to a jury trial and jury selection. We will also ensure that you have the fairest jury possible.