Being charged with a criminal offense is usually a frightening experience, particularly if it is the first time. Having never been through the prosecution of a criminal case before, you will likely have a number of questions if you find yourself in this position. One common question people have is “ Can I have a jury trial on a misdemeanor in Nebraska? ” The short answer is “yes”, you can request a jury trial if you are charged with a misdemeanor in Nebraska; however, you should consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney before making that decision.
For many people, their knowledge of the criminal justice system amounts to what they have seen on television police dramas or Hollywood blockbusters. Unfortunately, movies and television shows do not always do a very good job of accurately depicting the criminal justice system. For example, in most movies and TV shows every case goes to a jury trial. In reality, only a small percentage of criminal cases actually end up in a jury trial. There are several reasons for this, chief among them the risk a defendant takes when placing his or her fate in the hands of a jury. A defendant does, however, have the right to a jury trial even if the case is only a misdemeanor.
There are some differences though, from a procedural aspect, when a jury trial is requested in a misdemeanor case. In most courts, a jury trial is presumed when the defendant is charged with a felony unless the defendant waives his/her right to a jury trial. In a misdemeanor prosecution, however, the reverse is true. Typically, a defendant is required to formally request a trial by jury, either in writing or in open court. Unless a jury trial is requested the court will presume the case will be adjudicated at a bench trial, or trial by judge. A bench trial is essentially the same as a jury trial procedurally, except that the judge makes the final decision instead of a jury. Furthermore, the Nebraska Supreme Court Rules, §6-1423 require a defendant to make a request for a trial by jury within ten days following the entry of a not guilty plea. A not guilty plea is usually entered on behalf of the defendant during the arraignment, or initial hearing, that is held shortly after (within 48 hours usually) being arrested.
The decision to allow a jury of your peers to decide your fate is an important, possibly life-altering, decision. Don’t make that decision without first consulting with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.