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Cedar Rapids Criminal Lawyer: Jury Trials and What you Should Know

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC​​

The right to jury trial is sacred in our criminal justice system. Very nearly every right of the accused contemplates a jury trial-- the right to the presumption of innocence before the jury, the Fifth Amendment right not to testify against one's self, the right to exclude evidence from the jury's view if it is collected illegally and in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. All of these rights suppose a jury trial as a natural conclusion to the process of criminal prosecution-- emblazoned in the Sixth Amendment itself:


"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."


The United States Supreme Court has recalled the history of jury trials in Anglo-American law thusly:


"[T]he truth of every accusation, whether preferred in the shape of indictment, information, or appeal, should afterwards be confirmed by the unanimous  suffrage of twelve of his equals and neighbours, indifferently chosen and superior to all suspicion."


Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 151-152 (1968) (applying the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial to the States pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment)


The right to jury trial traces its roots back to the Magna Carta and a criminal justice system that enshrines it as part of its founding documents is one of "foresight" regarding this right. Id (citing Blackstone).


Indeed, this country's first Continental Congress declared that the right to jury trial was a "great and inestimable privilege," one that they would codify. Id.


It has been considered by this country's Supreme Court "a birthright" to "prevent oppression by the government" and "arbitrary law enforcement." Id. Indeed, of all the rights available to the accused, it is perhaps the only one that provides a true check on the inertia of the criminal justice system.


It is unexpected then that this right is rarely invoked. Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and 94 percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas. Missouri v. Frye, 566 US 134, 135 (2012). That either means people who are going to trial are winning and rarely convicted or that most cases are resolved with plea agreements with which both parties can live.


If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC.


However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Linn County Courthouse Facade_edited_edi

Judged by 12  In Iowa felony and indictable misdemeanor prosecutions, the Defendant is entitled to a jury trial as a default matter of right. In simple misdemeanors, the default is a bench trial but the defendant can demand a jury trial within the first ten days following initial appearance. The right to a jury trial, says the United States Supreme Court, is a "birthright" that stands as a bulwark against institutional authority, government  An attorney licensed in Iowa and limited exclusively to a criminal practice will be able to help you navigate this process. ​​If you or a loved one has been arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC  for a free initial consultation today at 319-389-1889.

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