A criminal defendant’s right to a trial by a jury of his peers is a very fundamental constitutional right in Maryland and the rest of the United States. To make sure that this right is protected, Maryland law has established some very specific processes that must be completed before a defendant’s right to a jury trial will be considered to have been waived and the case decided by a judge. If you did not get a jury trial despite having never entered a valid waiver of your rights, then you may be entitled to a new trial. For advice and counsel on these and other criminal law issues, be sure to retain an experienced Maryland criminal law attorney.
As an example of this right in action, there’s the case of S.H. S.H. was accused of having committed a series of 25 thefts in Calvert County over a six-week period. After much delay, the accused man’s case reached a plea hearing. At that hearing, the defendant indicated that he wanted a jury trial. Later that day, at a different hearing in front of a different judge, the two sides informed the judge that they’d agreed to try the case without a jury. The case proceeded and the judge found S.H. guilty on all but two charges. Sentencing immediately followed.
The accused man appealed his conviction and was able to obtain a new trial. The success was one that resulted from the very strict procedural requirements that exist for trying a criminal defendant without a jury. Specifically, the law requires that a defendant must do more than just say, “I waive my right to a jury trial.” Instead, the defendant must waive that right in such a way that it is proven to have been a knowing and voluntary waiver of rights, and the judge must make a finding that is included in the case’s record that says that the waiver was knowing and voluntary.