Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Minnesota Jury Trials (Explained)

As any experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney will tell you --- very few criminal cases ever proceed to trial.  The fact of the matter is either someone is clearly guilty of the offense and will settle to get a good deal. Or the government's case is so poor that they'll decide to dismiss or put such an appealing offer on the table that even an innocent party will feel compelled to take it, after weighing the "worst-case-scenario" outcome they could face if the prosecutor got lucky.  That being said, you know who else has "issues" about jury trials?   Judges do.  After more than a decade of working with them, I think I finally understand why.


There are two main reasons judges dislike jury trials: When a lawyer becomes a judge, they are idealistic and proud to be in this noble system of justice. Yet, over time, they grow frustrated with results beyond their control. After presiding over thousands of cases, they start to develop an opinion about what is "right". While judges get to sentence people and tell lawyers what is right and wrong in Drunk Driving, Assault and  Theft cases that plead out, they have no control over the issue of guilt or innocence when a jury is involved.

I believe that (at some level) judges resent this loss of control and develop something of a complex. They like being in charge - and when a case's decision is up to a jury they become somewhat resentful because it denies them the control they crave. 


The second reason? Calender control. The judge's calender is a delicate science - bordering on art. As our society erodes from the consequences of our moral promiscuity ... crime soars. This increase means that each judge is required to handle more cases. Adding many new cases a week, over time, creates an unmanageable docket. This time crunch could force judges to cut corners if they don't want to work around the clock -  and jury trials are time hogs

A judge can conduct a court trial, without a jury, in a third the time it takes to do a jury trial. There are many procedural steps a judge must ensure with a jury. Juries can't hear certain evidence. Juries must constantly be instructed on the law. The list goes on and on. Jury trials simply take a lot of time. In a world where judges don't have time, they look for ways to cut corners and be more efficient - even at the expense of defendants. Judges can do this in every area except jury trials. As such, jury trials become time hogs and judges may come to resent them.

What This Means to You.

The downside of this trend is that if a defendant forces his case to a jury trial, the judge could well hold it against that person at sentencing - if they lose. As an example, a case which might have settled for straight probation if concluded as part of a plea agreement, might cost the guilty defendant some jail, if not prison, after a jury trial. However, there is also a benefit to this judicial trend. Since judges hate jury trials, they are becoming more accepting of generous plea bargains. That is good for defendants.

What Should You Do?

If your case has the potential to go to trial, be smart and increase your chance of success by exercising your right to remain silent, and call the Rolloff Law Office at (612) 234-1165. Together, we can protect your future.

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