The Best Criminal Defense Attorney Explains Your Trial Options to You

Once your case is held for court and gets past the preliminary hearing, you will have four basic options as to how your case will progress.  Your choices are:  1. Jury Trial; 2. Judge or Waiver Trial; 3. Negotiated Guilty Plea; and 4. Open Guilty Plea.  The difference between a jury trial and a waiver (judge) trial is that in a waiver trial, the judge determines whether you are guilty or not; while in a jury trial, the jury determines whether you are guilty or not.  If the jury is hung, there will be no verdict and the case remains open.  The District Attorney’s Office will usually retrial you or sometimes make you a new offer.  In both types of trials, the judge make all legal rulings (including any motions, such as a motion to suppress) and determines your sentence if you are found guilty of at least one charge (except in Capital Murder Cases where the jury determines whether you get the death penalty or life imprisonment).

In Philadelphia, after your arraignment you are given a pre-trial in a lets-make-a-deal room.  If you take the deal, the case is over after you plead guilty.  You can turn down the offer and plead open, which means you are plead guilty and let the judge determines your sentence.  In these instances, the judges have guidelines that are supposed to follow unless they have good reason not to follow them.  If you decide that instead that you don’t want to plead guilty, you can ask to be spun to a trial room where you will have a choice between the aforementioned jury or waive trials.

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