Can A Defendant Waive A Jury Trial In Ohio? (by DaytonDUI)
Controversial Jury Bill Dies In Committee
Ohio is one of 21 states that give the power to decide whether or not to have a jury trial solely to the defendant. Thus, a defendant can, at any point, decide against a jury trial and opt for a trial only to the judge. This is often done in serious OVI cases wherein a technical or scientific point is the most salient point. It is particularly apt when a defendant wants to avoid allowing the prosecution to enflame the jury with sympathetic evidence of injuries or in cases where the defendant has a lengthy criminal history. In short, it is one of very few tools that can (in very limited circumstances) benefit a criminal defendant. This benefit does not exist in the federal system. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23 states that a defendant may only waive a trial by jury with the consent of the prosecution. This provision has been upheld by the Supreme Court in Patton v. U.S. and Singer v. U.S.
Ohio State Rep. Lynn Slaby, a former prosecutor, introduced HB 265 last December to change Ohio law to make it consistent with federal law, and thus more beneficial to Ohio prosecutors. The Bill states, in pertinent part:
The prosecuting attorney, a village solicitor, a city director of law, or a similar chief legal officer for a municipal corporation responsible for prosecuting a criminal case before a municipal court may demand a jury trial in any criminal case in which a defendant may demand a jury trial. The prosecuting attorney, village solicitor, city director of law, or similar chief legal officer may demand a jury trial notwithstanding a defendant’s failure to demand a jury trial and over the objection of the defendant.(Emphasis added.)
From the beginning the bill was controversial and garnered little support outside of the prosecutors. “This is the second time in nine years that the legislature has attempted to take away a defendant’s right to waive a jury trial; a right that simply levels the playing field for defendants in a game where the prosecution enjoys exclusive control over the nature of the charges filed, the number of charges brought, and execution of the charges through warrant and arrest. The last time, in 2002, the measure (H.B. 541) was squashed through the hard work of attorneys and judges who saw the danger in such legislation.” Columbus Bar Association, Fall 2011.
On Wednesday, December 12, the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee held testimony on HB 265. After hearing testimony, Chairman Mark Wagoner did not call for a vote. This action by Chairman Wagoner effectively defeated the bill for this session. As of this writing it is unknown whether the bill will be reintroduced at a later date. We will keep you informed.
DUI attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in Dayton, Springfield, Kettering, Vandalia, Xenia, Miamisburg, Huber Heights,Beavercreek, and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself the Miami Valley’s choice for DUI defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at 937-318-1DUI (937-318-1384), 937-879-9542, or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). For after-hours help contact our 24/7 DUI HOTLINE at 937-776-2671. For information about Dayton DUI sent directly to your mobile device, text DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Twitter @DaytonDUI or Get Twitter updates via SMS by texting DaytonDUI to 40404. DaytonDUI is also available on Facebook,www.facebook.com/daytondui and on the DaytonDUI channel on YouTube. You can also email Charles Rowland at: CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.comor write to us at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.