If you have an ongoing criminal case, you need to consider whether it is in your best interest to resolve your case before it goes to trial or whether you should have your case heard before a jury. (Although you may ask to have a judge hear your case in a “bench trial,” this article will only cover jury trials).
A jury trial can carry a higher reward (total acquittal of your charges) but it carries a correspondingly high risk.
What Happens at Trial?
At trial, a jury will determine whether the prosecutor has established your guilt for a crime. The prosecutor must demonstrate that your conduct met all the “elements” of a particular crime. For example, if you are charged with burglary, a violation of California Penal Code Section 459, the prosecutor has to show that you entered some residential structure (1st degree burglary) or commercial building (2nd degree burglary) with the intent to commit a felony or theft crime once you got inside. The jury will determine whether your conduct amounted to burglary in view of these components of the crime. Your attorney will put on a defense, for example, that you entered a structure but you did not do so with any intent to commit any crime once you got in. If the jury believes the prosecutor has shown that your conduct met the elements of the offense, you will be convicted. If the jury believes your version of the events, specifically, that you lacked the intent to commit a theft crime or a felony, you will be acquitted even though y