Thursday, June 6, 2013

MBE Fast Fact: Right to Counsel/Right to a Jury Trial

The rules regarding right to counsel during a criminal trial and right to a jury trial in a criminal case are straight-forward, but it's also easy to mix up the different standards. Below are the rules that should be known regarding these two rights on the MBE:

Right to Counsel: Defendant has a right to counsel during felony trials. In regards to misdemeanors, defendant will only have a right to counsel if incarceration is actually imposed or if a suspended sentence is imposed. What this means is that in a misdemeanor trial, if defendant is convicted and sentenced to incarceration, defendant can attack that conviction if counsel was not provided. But if incarceration is not imposed, then defendant cannot attack the judgement based upon lack of counsel.

Note also that defendant is entitled to counsel when pleading guilty.

Right to Jury Trial: The right to a jury trial is only afforded for serious offenses. Serious offenses are defined as offenses in which imprisonment of more than 6 months is authorized (even if not imposed). A petty offense is one in which imprisonment of more than 6 months is not authorized, and there is no right to a jury trial for such offenses. Even in those cases in which a jury trial is required, there is no right to a jury of 12 but there must be at least 6 jurors to satisfy the right to jury trial. Though not all verdicts must be unanimous, all verdicts of a six-person jury must be unanimous.

There is also no right to a jury trial in juvenile delinquency proceedings.

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