Sometimes, state felony charges are leveled against an individual here in North Carolina over alleged illegal drug activity. During state criminal proceedings involving felony drug charges or other charges at the felony level, there are many significant decisions that can come before a defendant. Now, another decision will be added to that list, given one of the Election Day results here in North Carolina. The decision in question is whether to ask for a bench trial rather than a jury trial.
A bench trial is something felony defendants in state-level criminal cases in North Carolina historically have not had as an option. State law limited felony cases to jury trials and gave felony defendants no option to waive the right to trial by jury.
A proposed constitutional amendment to change this aspect of North Carolina law was on this year’s ballot. In yesterday’s vote, the amendment was approved. It is estimated that 53 percent of voters cast votes in favor of the amendment.
Under the amendment, defendants in felony cases will be allowed to waive the right to a jury trial and request a bench trial if they so desire. Such a waiver will require approval by a judge to go through.
There will still be one narrow class of felony cases in which North Carolina defendants will have no ability to waive the right to trial by jury: death penalty cases.
The decisions in a criminal case, such as the decision of whether or not to waive the right to a jury trial, can have some rather major implications for a defendant. Thus, it is vital for defendants to have all the relevant and applicable information when making decisions regarding their case. Criminal defense attorneys can guide felony defendants through the various decisions they will have to make in their case and help them to be well-informed when making such decisions.
Source: WWAY, “NC voters approve jury option amendment,” Nov. 5, 2014