Under Canadian law, the constitution grants you the right to be tried by a jury of your peers for crimes punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment. The Canadian Criminal Code also gives you the right to be tried by a jury for indictable offences, including those that may be punishable by less than 5 years of imprisonment.
You have the right to decide whether your case will be heard by a judge alone or a judge and a jury. However, trial by a jury of one’s peers is mandatory for such serious criminal offences like treason, murder, inciting to mutiny, piracy, sedition, and alarming Her Majesty.
There are cases that are best heard by a jury and others by a judge alone, depending on different factors.
A judge trial is probably the better option if you are representing yourself. This is because, in front of a judge alone, you will not have to worry about such things as:
With no jury present, your arguments will not need to follow strict procedural rules. A judge is also more likely to ignore the strict rules of evidence when there is no jury involved.
With a jury, there is a risk that they will hear evidence that was not supposed to be presented. Even if you object to such evidence and the object is allowed and the judge gives instructions for the evidence to be ignored, jurors are humans and such evidence may have an impact on the outcome of the case.
If you are involved in an overly emotional case, jurors are more likely to be blinded by raw emotions than an experienced judge.
If you are short on evidence or you are not completely innocent, a jury may work best for you if you are successful in presenting your case in a sympathetic light. This is because a jury is more likely to be swayed by sympathy and other emotions, sometimes completely ignoring hard evidence. The standard of proof is often much lower with jury trials.
With a jury, you only need to convince several of the jurors and you win. With a judge, you have to convince a single person who has a greater understanding of the law. Juries are, therefore, the better option in cases that have high stakes such as life in prison.
At Costa Law Firm, we have vast experience and expertise in criminal defense litigation. This means we are able to advise you on what best works for you.
No matter which option you go for, we have a team ready to dive deep for you. We will be involved in the entire process, including jury selection, challenges for cause, judicial pre-trials, Charter challenges, getting and preparing expert witnesses, and preliminary inquiries.
Reach us on 416-535-6329 for a free 20 minutes’ consultation.