Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
We fight for justice, integrity, and civil rights.
Miami Criminal Defense Attorney / Blog / Criminal Defense / Can You Waive Your Right to a Jury Trial in a Florida Criminal Case?

Can You Waive Your Right to a Jury Trial in a Florida Criminal Case?


Everyone accused of a criminal offense in Florida has an absolute right to trial by jury. This right is guaranteed in both the United States and Florida constitutions. In Florida, a person accused of a capital crime has the right to be tried by a jury of at least 12 persons; in all other cases, the jury need only have 6 members.

It is possible, however, for a defendant to waive their right to trial by jury and elect for a bench trial. In a bench trial, a judge plays the role of fact-finder. The trial itself proceeds largely the same as if it were held before a jury. But the judge ultimately decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Oral vs. Written Waivers

The rules governing Florida criminal cases state, “A defendant may in writing waive a jury trial with the consent of the state.” A defendant may also orally waive their right to a jury trial. But there are certain safeguards the trial court must follow in accepting an oral waiver in open court. Specifically, the judge must question the defendant to determine whether the waiver is “voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently made.”

It is not enough for the judge to simply ask the defendant if they waive their right to a jury trial. Take this recent decision from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, Baker v. State. In this case, prosecutors charged the defendant with “high speed or wanton fleeing or eluding” and felony driving with a suspended license.

On the day set for trial, the defendant told the court orally that he wished to waive a jury and proceed with a bench trial. The judge did not conduct any inquiry beyond hearing the defendant affirm for the record that he waived his right. The Fourth District held that was insufficient. Indeed, the appellate court noted the trial judge “failed to make any inquiry” into the defendant’s waiver, “let alone the requisite inquiry into the knowing, intelligent, and voluntary nature of the waiver.”

Since the defendant never properly waived his right to a jury trial, the decision to proceed with a bench trial–which resulted in the defendant’s conviction–was also invalid. The Fourth District therefore ordered a new trial.

Contact Asilia Law Firm Today

There are many reasons why a defendant may wish to waive their right to a jury trial. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant may believe a judge to be more sympathetic than a group of jurors. A bench trial can also resolve a case more quickly.

But you should never waive any constitutional right without first consulting a qualified Miami criminal attorney who can review the state’s case against you and inform you of all options you have regarding a defense. If you need to speak with an attorney right away, contact Asilia Law Firm today to schedule an initial consultation.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Get The Justice
You Deserve

Request Your Free Consultation

All Fields Required

By submitting this form I acknowledge that contacting Asilia Law Firm through this website does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information I send is not protected by attorney-client privilege.

protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms