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Fort Myers Criminal Defense Lawyer / Blog / Federal Crimes / Bench Trials vs. Jury Trials in Federal Criminal Cases

Bench Trials vs. Jury Trials in Federal Criminal Cases


In many federal criminal cases, defendants exercise the right to waive a jury trial. If they take this course of action, they may move forward with a bench trial. If you are faced with this decision while facing a federal charge in Fort Myers, you might be wondering about the differences between these two trials. Should you choose a bench trial or a jury trial?

Bench Trials vs. Jury Trials in Florida 

The Constitution guarantees you the right to a jury trial. In this type of trial, the outcome of your case depends on what a jury thinks about your situation. A handful of average citizens will listen to your defense lawyer and the prosecutors before making the final decision. In a jury trial, the jurors deliberate on the verdict and deliver it to the judge. They decide whether you are guilty.

In a bench trial, you face only the judge. In addition to presiding over the trial, the judge also determines whether you are guilty.

Which Type of Trial Should I Choose? 

There are pros and cons for both jury trials and bench trials. According to the American Bar Association, bench trials can be “more efficient and easier to navigate than jury trials.” Judges often find it easier to understand complex legal nuances, making them more “sophisticated triers of facts” compared to average citizens.

In a bench trial, parties can openly argue about evidentiary disputes and other motions without first removing the jury from the courtroom. The process is also inherently faster because there is no jury selection or jury instructions. Finally, bench trials can be scheduled faster, and they may conclude within a few weeks.

On the other hand, jurors may be more sympathetic to your situation compared to a judge. These individuals are easily influenced by human emotions rather than logic, and this may play to your advantage. That said, juries may be less biased compared to individual judges because they consist of multiple personalities and life experiences.

Do Defendants Ever Choose Bench Trials in Florida? 

Yes, defendants often choose bench trials in Florida. In May of 2024, the Justice Department announced that a drug trafficker had been convicted of conspiracy to distribute meth and fentanyl after a bench trial in Tampa. The implication is that this defendant must have believed that he had a better chance of a positive outcome in a bench trial rather than a jury trial.

Work With an Experienced Federal Crime Defense Lawyer in Fort Myers 

The choice between a jury trial and a bench trial is just one important choice you might need to make while approaching federal charges in Fort Myers. There are many others to consider, and you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer before making any hasty decisions. The Foley & Wilson Law Firm has considerable experience with federal crimes, and we can help you execute an effective defense strategy. Reach out to our Fort Myers federal charge lawyers today to get started.




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