If you are charged with a drug crime in Indiana, you may wonder if you have the right to a jury trial. A jury trial is when a group of citizens decides whether you are guilty or not guilty of the crime. On the other hand, a judge’s trial is when the judge makes that decision.
Regarding having the right to a jury trial, the U.S. Constitution guarantees your right to a jury trial for any criminal offense. This right includes drug crimes, such as possession, dealing, manufacturing or trafficking of controlled substances. However, you can also waive your right to a jury trial and choose to have a judge trial instead, also known as a bench trial.
You can request a jury trial for any drug crime, regardless of the severity or the penalty.
A jury trial versus a judge trial
In deciding whether to go for a jury or judge trial, your answer could depend on many factors. These factors could include:
- The facts of your case
- The strength of the evidence
- The credibility of the witnesses
- The preferences of your attorney and the prosecutor
In a jury trial, you may persuade at least one juror, which could increase your chance of a “not guilty” verdict. But verdicts can be unpredictable. Jury trials are also longer and more expensive. In a judge trial, the process can be quicker and cheaper and the judge may be more objective. However, your fate rests in the hands of one person who might disagree with your defense.
A real option for drug crimes
Ultimately, the decision to request or waive a jury trial is yours to make. In a recent case, the state of Indiana charged Steven Hecke with drug and armed drug trafficking offenses. Following the charge, he chose to exercise his right to a jury trial. After a five-day trial in June 2022, the jury found Hecke guilty on all counts charged in the indictment. This case highlights the fact that individuals have the right to a jury trial. Not only is this a constitutional guarantee, but also a real option for those facing serious drug charges in Indiana.