An accused individual has the right to a jury trial in all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases as mandated by the United States Constitution.  California case law states that a defendant is entitled to be tried by an impartial jury selected from a representative cross-section of residents of the county in which the charged crime was allegedly committed.  At trial, a criminal defendant has a number of constitutional rights, including the right to counsel, the right to a public trial, the right to a trial by jury, the right to a fair and impartial trial, the right to confront witnesses in court, the right to compulsory process to obtain witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination. Violation of any of these rights may result in the reversal of a conviction on appeal.

The jury verdict in a California criminal case must be unanimous.


The parties to a felony or misdemeanor proceeding may agree to waive a jury and allow the court alone to decide the case.  The defendant must personally waive the right to a jury trial.  A defendant has no right to demand a court trial over the objections of the prosecutor. Both the defense counsel and the prosecution must waive a jury trial.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be beneficial to a defendant to have his or her case tried by the court (i.e. the judge), rather than a jury of his or her peers.  However, as a standard rule, jury trials are preferred over court trials in the eyes of the defense.

For those accused of an infraction, the defendant does not have a right to a jury trial, only a bench trial.  However, the following description of trial procedure generally applies to infractions trials, except the judge examines the evidence and decides the verdict.


The first stage in the trial process is typically the submission of pretrial motions, also known as motions in limine.   A motion in limine is a motion made before a trial begins, asking the court to decide whether particular evidence will be admissible. A motion in limine is most often made to exclude evidence by a party who believes that evidence would prejudice the jury against him or her. For example, a defendant in a criminal trial may make a motion in limine to exclude evidence of previous crimes.


The next phase is jury selection, where 12 impartial jurors are chosen. During jury selection, both sides engage in voir dire, or the examination of prospective jurors. Some jurors will be excused “for cause,” or at the discretion of the attorneys, in what is known as a peremptory challenge.


After the jury is selected, both sides give opening statements. This is an opportunity for both the defense lawyer and prosecutor to give a preview of what is to come in the case.

In some cases the defense can “reserve” opening statement until after the prosecutor has rested his case. This is a tactical decision that will be made by your lawyer if he believes that it is in your best interest.


After opening statements, each side will engage in the examination and cross-examination of the respective witnesses and experts. This portion of the trial normally takes several days to several weeks to complete depending upon the number of witnesses to be called by both sides


Once all of the witnesses have testified, both sides will engage in closing arguments. This is typically a chance to recap the case that has been presented to the jury.


The next phase of the trial is jury deliberations.  During jury deliberations, the jury may ask for clarification from the judge regarding specific issues, and will often ask to reexamine evidence.  This means in some cases the court reporter will read back some of the testimony provided during the trial for the jurors.


After jury deliberations, comes the verdict.  The verdict can be either guilty, not guilty, or the jury will inform the court that they are deadlocked. A trial jury selected to make a decision in a criminal case regarding a defendant’s guilt or innocence, but who are unable to reach a verdict due to a complete division in opinion is considered a “hung jury.”  When a jury has been given an adequate opportunity to deliberate and is unable to reach a verdict, a retrial may take place at the discretion of the prosecution. The defense can ask that the judge dismiss the case and not allow the case to be retried.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will guide you through the criminal process and aggressively defend you at each step.

For compassionate and zealous legal representation you can trust during a difficult time in your life, don’t hesitate to call Pamela DiBello for help. With her experience and skills as a seasoned criminal defense attorney, you can rest assured that your case is in excellent hands. Contact Pamela DiBello today for a consultation to go over the facts of your case in detail and to learn more about mounting a strong defense. Call now at 909-576-8036 or email: idefendu@dibellolawfirm.com