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Do I have a right to a trial by jury?


February 26, 2012 by Tom Roberts, Esq.

Generally speaking, criminal defendants may demand a jury for all serious crimes and have their case tried by a jury of 12.  On appeals of misdemeanor crimes in the Circuit Court, a criminal defendant may demand a trial by a jury of 7.   In civil cases seeking money damages, generally a litigant may demand a trial by a jury of 7 jurors.

The United States Constitution guarantees the right to jury trial in serious criminal cases in state courts. It also guarantees the right to jury trial for a criminal contempt punished by a two-year prison term.

Article III, § 2, of the U.S. Constitution provides that “the Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury . . . .” The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury . . . .” The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid both the Federal Government and the States from depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194, 195 (U.S. 1968)

In civil cases, the right to a trial by jury generally depends on the availability of a jury trial in a particular type of case under the common law of England at the time of the adoption of the U.S. and State Constitutions (which allowed jury trials in its “courts of law” but not in its “courts of equity”). In practice, this means that jury trials are available in American civil cases in most cases seeking money damages on a tort law or contract law theory, but are rarely available when non-monetary damages, such as an injunction or declaratory relief are sought.  In equity cases, factual disputes are sometimes referred to juries for advisory opinions.  By statute, the right to a jury is available on a plea in bar.


The materials are prepared for information purposes only.  The materials are not legal advice and you should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney.  Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.


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