Each trial needs six jurors in most cases, or 12 jurors if it’s a capital offense. The state identification card records, driver’s license records, and voter registration records are where prospective jurors are selected from. However, not all jurors picked from these records make it to the final team or juries.
With the exemption of capital cases, there is no limit to the number of “challenge for cause” that a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can bring forth. Peremptory challenges are, however, limited to six for each side. The goal is to remain with jurors that are all-around fit to handle a specific trial case.
Do All Cases Get a Jury Hearing?
Trial by jury in Florida is a right of every person arrested for allegedly committing a crime. And the judges or magistrates are obliged to inform you of this right when you appear before them. But since it is not an obligation or a duty, the accused person is allowed to decide whether they prefer this mode of judgment or if they want to waive it.
Remember, felony cases usually proceed as if you plan to have a jury trial. However, a jury trial isn’t always favorable for all cases. So, if you wish to waive your right to a jury, your criminal defense attorney will need to inform the court of your choices. You will also be required to appear in court and confirm that you are making the decision knowingly and voluntarily.
You might not need a jury trial if a guilty plea has been negotiated for you. In such instances, you will get the agreed and pre-determined sentence when you plead guilty, which doesn’t need a jury. In some instances, you might need the judge to hear and determine your case alone for strategic reasons. Always consult with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney to determine whether a bench trial or a jury trial is more advantageous to your case.
How is a Juror Picked for a Case in Tampa?
Members of a jury are randomly selected, but the trial judge asks them questions to ensure they are fit and qualified to serve. A juror must meet the following requirements:
- A U.S. citizen
- Above 18 years
- Live in the court’s jurisdiction
- Have the right to vote
- Ability to sit through the entire trial, hear, and understand the testimonies
- Be mentally aware enough to comprehend and apply legal instructions from the judge
- Ability to put aside emotions and apply the law impartially
- Service that won’t cause them undue hardship. For instance, they are the sole caretaker of an ill or elderly family member, have an upcoming surgery, or will miss critical exams.
After the judge is done, your Tampa criminal attorney and the plaintiff’s attorney also get a chance to ask the selected members some questions. They will seek to find out:
- Their biases
- Their backgrounds
- Pre-existing knowledge about the case
- Experiences or characteristics that might cause them to favor one side
However, there are limitations to what the lawyers can ask the potential members of the jury. For instance, they cannot ask:
- How they would conclude the case in advance
- Overly personal questions
What Types of Biases Can Disqualify a Juror?
Having biases can make a randomly selected juror unfit to serve in a Tampa case. A biased jury member is unable to administer justice for the person accused of a criminal offense, and can contribute to sending them to jail or prison, even when they are not truly guilty of the offense.
Thus, a Tampa criminal defense attorney that can identify these biases is critical for your rights being upheld in the trial.
- Actual Bias – This is when a juror admits that they have biases that can hinder their impartiality. For example, one might have religious beliefs that don’t allow them to sit in another person’s judgment. In that case, they have to be excused.
- Implied Bias – This happens when a member of the jury has experiences or traits that can affect their impartiality. Being a relative or friend to an attorney of either side, the judge, a witness, or a key party should have a juror dismissed from the panel. Similarly, if a juror has the experience or background of a teacher, they wouldn’t be fit to sit in a judgment involving teachers.
A competent criminal attorney in Tampa, FL, cannot allow your case to proceed with a single juror that possesses either implied or actual biases. Luckily, the selection process has avenues for interested parties to eliminate any unfit juror.
What Happens When a Juror Has Biases?
The jury selection process involves a “striking the jury” process, where the defense and the prosecution teams take turns to challenge a juror’s fitness in the case. A juror can be struck from the panel if the judge grants a challenge.
After challenges for cause are exhausted, the two sides can strike the jurors using peremptory challenges. And the trial process only begins when attorneys from both sides are satisfied by the jurors in the panel or when there are no more challenges.
If the striking eliminates too many jurors, the judge can declare a mistrial or summon additional potential jurors. Eventually, the qualified jurors will be placed in a jury box where your Tampa criminal attorney is allowed to challenge any demographic imbalances such as gender, race, or ethnicity. Once everything is in order, the jurors can be sworn in.
Quality Legal Advice from an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
If the wrong team of jurors ends up sitting in your trial case, you are less likely to get the justice you deserve. Various biases can skew the judgment decision against you, and you might end up paying hefty fines or serving jail terms unnecessarily.
If you are accused of a crime in Tampa, it is critical to secure an unbiased trial process. Talk to criminal defense attorney Patrick B. Courtney to ensure that the trial process is fair for you.
He’s represented clients in Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties for years. Get in touch right away by calling (813) 967-2000.