Should You Waive a Jury Trial in North Carolina

Written by Thom Goolsby

Featured, Law

Waiving a criminal jury trial is possible in North Carolina. But is it a good idea?

In 2014, North Carolina voters approved an Amendment to allow bench trials for felonies in Superior Court. The only exception is when the State pursues the death sentence.

In all other cases, a criminal defendant has the right to request a waiver of trial by jury. This can be an advantage in some situations, but you should discuss all your options with an experienced lawyer.

Attorney Thom Goolsby is a Wilmington, NC trial lawyer with hundreds of jury and bench trials under his belt. This level of experience and insight could mean all the difference. Let us help weigh your options and find a solution.

Do not hesitate to call (910) 763–3339 or submit your information online to schedule a free consultation.

Jury vs. Bench Trials in NC

If a defendant waives their constitutional right to a jury trial, the proceedings are conducted by a judge. This is a bench trial. As a matter of strategy, there are various reasons why a defendant would want a bench trial rather than a jury trial. However, the opposite is also true.

How to Waive a North Carolina Jury Trial

North Carolina law establishes the procedure for waiving a jury trial in Superior Court. In a criminal case, the defendant must give notice of intent to waive a jury trial by:

  • Serving a stipulation – Showing on each party’s consent to the trial judge. This must be signed by the State and the defendant.
  • Filing a notice of intent – submitting the request to the Court and delivering it on the State and counsel for any co-defendants.
  • Giving notice of intent – Waiving a jury trial on the record in open court. The waiver extends to all matters of law and fact under the Criminal Procedure Act.

Jury Waiver Exceptions

If joinder of co-defendants is allowed, there shall be a jury trial, unless ALL co-defendants waive their right to trial by jury or the court severs the cases.

Waiver Hearings

The State must schedule a hearing to determine whether the judge will hear the case without a jury. If the trial judge consents to the waiver of a jury trial, the defendant may revoke it within 10 business days of the defendant’s initial decision.

In addition, the Court may only grant a waiver of revocation if the revocation would not cause unreasonable hardship or delay to the State.

Lastly, the trial judge is required to make all findings that would be required of a jury when a defendant waives the right to a jury trial.

When to Waive a Jury Trial

There some instances when a bench trial makes the most sense. For example, if the charges in question are particularly violent, a lawyer may believe that a jury is unlikely to set aside their prejudices to render a fair result. In that case, a judge may be more dispassionate and more focused on the legal aspects of the case. However, if your argument rests on what an ordinary person would have don in similar circumstances, a judge may have a hard time seeing things from your point of view. Therefore, you may be better served by a jury trial.

Consult Attorney Thom Goolsby First

It’s impossible to know which scenario is best in your case unless an experienced Wilmington criminal defense attorney thoroughly evaluates your situation. This is the kind of representation you’ll find at the Goolsby Law Firm, PLLC.

We have extensive trial experience and can tell if you will fair better by waiving your right to a jury trial and what you can expect in a bench trial. We have been successfully resolving cases like yours for over twenty-five years. Thom Goolsby is ready to fight for you!

Contact us now at (910) 356-8341 for a free consultation. We’re happy to explain what you’re facing and what we can do to help.

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Contact Goolsby Law Firm Today

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    Wilmington, North Carolina 28401

    Like any quality criminal defense attorney, Thom Goolsby may be in court when you first call, but leave a voice mail or send a text. We’ll get with you as soon as possible, so we can go over what happened, evaluate the case, and explain what comes next.