Imagine having people who like the police or prosecutor decide your guilt or innocence. That is what you are doing when you allow a judge to make the important decision of your guilt or innocence. While judges are to carry an air of independence, we frequently see them take the safe route and decide in favor of the District Attorney in sex cases. As a result, it is rarely (<5%) in your best interest to permit a judge to decide your guilt or innocence. In Denver, Arapahoe or Jefferson County, when jail is a possible sentence, you are entitled to have a jury decide your guilt or innocence by a unanimous verdict.
Number of Jurors in Felony Cases
In felony cases, you are entitled to a twelve (12) person jury. You receive this large number of jurors because prison is possible if you lose. If jurors can’t unanimously decide you are guilty or innocent, your trial will result in a mistrial. When a mistrial occurs, the prosecution then has ninety (90) days to retry your case to a new jury.
Number of Jurors in Misdemeanor Cases
In misdemeanor cases, you can get up to six (6) jurors. Never agree to a lesser number, where it will be easier to convict you. The worst sentence in a misdemeanor case is up to twenty-four months in the Douglas, Broomfield or Adams County jail.
Juries in Municipal / City Court Cases
In municipal or city court cases, you can request a jury only if your charges carry the possibility of jail. Even then, you must do two things: 1) pay a $25 fee for your municipal court jury and 2) make your request in writing shortly after your first court appearance. Otherwise, you cannot have a jury decide your case. Once again, always seek the largest jury possible.
Here are some other important reasons to insist on a jury trial:
Consider Who Knows the Judge Best:
Prosecutors work with judges every day – usually the same judge. This is done so the DA gets to know the judge, his or her preferences, and to gain their loyalty. As defense attorneys, we often see judges asking a prosecutor how their weekend was, how their children are, or details about the operation of the court. Additionally, prosecutors know that being with the same person every day encourages a subtle desire to please that person.
Consider Who is Subject to Retention (Election)
Judges are subject to a retention vote. This means the public gets to vote on keeping them or not. If DAs, special interest groups, and police are critical of them, it will be publicized before the retention election. Judges have lost their jobs for low approval ratings.
Consider Who is Doing the Same Thing Each Day
Judges work with hundreds of cases each week and are affected by the crimes they see. After a while, they grow weary of defendants fighting charges and taking up their time. Judges see 100X more guilty people than innocent people. Over time, or when in doubt, they start to assume that everyone is guilty.
Consider a Judge’s Former Job
Many judges are formerly District Attorney prosecutors. It is nearly impossible to erase the years of prosecution mentality from them. We have even seen new judges refer to their office as the DAs office, by mistake.
Consider Who Has a Time Crunch & Busy Schedule
A jury trial will take at least double the judge’s time than a court / bench (judge) trial. Judges prefer to do things the quick way, so expect a bias favoring a judge trial.
Consider Who Pays Judges, Who Pays the District Attorney
Judges and District Attorneys are paid by the “People of the State of Colorado.” This means they both work for the same people. A jury is not paid to do their job.
Consider Who Likes to Be Liked by Police
Police are a powerful voting block and carry weight when they criticize or endorse a particular judge. Judges want to be retained and so they are careful to not openly offend a police officer or police department. Some judges are indifferent to the opinions of the police, but most care.
Consider Who Wants to Be Liked by Special Interest Groups
For a retention vote, judges want special interest groups like victim’s advocates, sexual assault victims groups, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, domestic violence women’s groups and crime victims associations in their corner.