Do I Have the Right to a Trial?

Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer?”


American citizens are afforded many rights. The United States Constitution Bill of Rights provides us with some fundamental rights. We have the right to bear arms, we have the right to free speech, and many others. Part of our unique judicial system is the right to a fair trial. When you are charged with a crime, you are presumed innocent unless and until you are found guilty in a court of law. If you have been arrested for a crime, you need to understand your rights, including the request for a trial, to determine the outcome of your case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help guide your case, protect your rights, and assist you in defending the charges.


What is a Jury Trial?

A jury trial is a legal proceeding that allows you to present a defense to a jury of your peers. Before the trial starts, the court chooses a panel of jurists. Jurists are local residents who are randomly called to jury duty. The U.S. Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution allow a criminal defendant to have a trial. In some cases, you might have a bench trial, which is conducted without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge issues a verdict. During the trial, both the prosecutor and defense have time to present their sides of the case.



Should I Waive My Right to a Trial?

Sometimes, it is best to waive your right to a trial. This may happen, for instance, when you accept a plea bargain offer. A plea bargain allows you to plead guilty to a lesser crime to obtain a lower sentence. If you plead guilty to a crime, you will not need a trial because you have already admitted guilt. If you wish to defend the charges, you will need to typically plead not guilty, and you will get a trial. It is important to note that nobody can take away your right to a trial, so you do not have to waive your right to a trial.


A jury trial can be beneficial in some cases, or it could be detrimental in others. Each case is different, and the set of facts, evidence, witnesses, and other things will help determine the best option. Before making the decision, consult a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney regarding your specific case. You cannot waive your right to a trial in capital offense cases. Capital offenses are extremely serious and could result in a death penalty sentence if convicted.


Seek Legal Guidance

The decision to waive your right to a trial is a serious one and should not be decided without consultation with a skilled criminal defense attorney. If you choose to waive your right to a trial, the judge will make sure that you understand the choice and that you are making it freely. You need to be sure that you know the potential consequences of your choice before you decide. There are many instances where a defendant thought a trial would be best only to face a severe sentence after a guilty finding. Other times, a defendant ends up with an acquittal after a trial and does not face any sentence at all.


The decision to waive your right to a trial is a very important choice. If you have been charged with a crime, do not wait to consult with our criminal defense legal team. Please contact us today to get a phone, video, or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe; please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.






The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may face include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights and stand at the ready to fight in defense of those facing criminal charges.



Bill of Rights | U.S. Constitution | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (

Trial | USAO | Department of Justice


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