Jury trials – when settlement negotiations have failed, or a defendant is not guilty and refuses to accept anything less that acquittal, a case is set for trial at Docket Day and a jury of Santa Rosa County residents is chosen.
Prosecutors have the task of proving to judges and juries that defendants are guilty of committing crimes “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This burden of proof is much higher than the one set for civil cases, whereas a Milton lawyer representing a plaintiff in a civil action only has to prove that there is a preponderance (higher than 50%) of evidence the defendant committed the act he or she has been accused of committing.
This high burden of proof also requires that judges and juries decide in favor of defendants whenever there are doubts regarding what the evidence means. This is why that Milton lawyers very often argue that there is reasonable doubt that their defendants have committed whatever crimes they have been accused of committing–that the prosecuting attorney has failed in proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Defendants have the right to jury trials for all crimes rising above the level of “petty offense,” which include crimes carrying sentences of incarceration for six months or less. The right to a jury trial is generally interpreted to mean that a 12-person jury must reach a unanimous decision to either convict or acquit the defendant, although juries consisting of as few as six people can still be considered constitutional. In Florida, all DUI and criminal cases have six person juries, and only death penalty cases have twelve. A good Milton lawyer will attempt to ensure that the chosen jurors are at least neutral or, if at all possible, slightly biased toward his or her client.
Under Florida law, non-capital cases may consist of 6-person juries and capital cases may consist of 12-person juries. In cases where juries cannot reach a unanimous verdict–otherwise known as “hung juries”–the defendant may be cleared of the criminal charge, or more likely, the case will be retried with a new jury drawn from another venire panel made up of Santa Rosa County residents.
A reputable Milton lawyer will advise clients that they have the right not to testify thanks to the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The judge will insist that the jury cannot assume anything negative about the defendant should he or she exercise that right not to testify. Of course, the unfortunate truth is that some jurors do make negative assumptions in such cases. The arrest may have been highly publicized, or the the bond hearing may have been front page news: In such cases, a Motion to Change the trial Venue may be appropriate. If the person is in the Santa Rosa County jail, then the jury will be tainted if the person shows up to trial in jail clothes. Thus Milton lawyers defending such cases will need to make the right motions before trial to insure that the trial is a fair one.
Some Milton lawyers might say that exercising one’s Fifth Amendment right to silence at trial can sometimes seem nearly as incriminating to juries as confessing to the crime outright – each case in Santa Rosa County is different.
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