Michigan Court Discusses Waiver of the Right to a Jury Trial in Criminal Matters

One of the many rights the United States Constitution affords criminal defendants is the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. Parties do not have to exercise that right but can choose to be tried before a judge. The waiver of the right to a jury trial must be knowing and voluntary, however, otherwise, it may be invalid. In a recent Michigan ruling issued in an assault case, the court discussed what constitutes a voluntary waiver of the right to a jury trial. If you are charged with assault or any other crime, it is smart to talk to a Michigan criminal defense attorney about your rights.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his girlfriend drove a friend to another part of the state so that the friend could sell methamphetamines. The drug purchasers believed they had been cheated and started following the defendant’s car after the transaction, and the parties engaged in multiple confrontations in two different parking lots. During the confrontations, the defendant pointed a gun at the purchasers.

It is reported that the purchasers contacted the police and advise them of the incident. The defendant was subsequently charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. He initially requested a jury trial but later asked for a bench trial, due to the fact that it would be conducted one month earlier than a jury trial. He was convicted and sentenced as a habitual offender to 30 months to 15 years in prison. He appealed.

Waiver of the Right to a Jury Trial

On appeal, the defendant argued that he did not voluntarily waive his right to a jury trial as he was forced to choose between a speedy trial and a trial before a jury. The court disagreed and denied his appeal. First, the court noted that the defendant did not raise the issue before the trial court, and therefore it was not preserved for appeal. As such, the court reviewed the issue for plain error, meaning a clear mistake that prejudiced the defendant by affecting the outcome of the lower court proceedings.

The court explained that reversal is only appropriate when the forfeited plain error led to the conviction of a defendant that is actually innocent or substantially impacts the integrity, fairness, or reputation of judicial proceedings. In the subject case, contrary to the defendant’s assertion, the court found that he was adequately apprised of his right to a jury trial and willingly waived that right. Thus, his appeal was denied.

Meet with an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

A person’s constitutional rights do not cease when they are charged with a crime, and if their rights are violated during the course of a criminal proceeding, it may be grounds for vacating any conviction entered against them. If you are accused of assault or another criminal offense, it is wise to meet with an attorney to talk about your options. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer with the skills and knowledge needed to provide you with a strong chance of achieving a good outcome, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.

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