What to Know About Waiver Trials in Pennsylvania

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
March 18, 2021

In some cases, choosing a waiver trial over a jury trial in a Pennsylvania criminal case can be advantageous to the defendant and their attorney. In this post-pandemic era, it may also benefit the judicial system and the community. As a result of the pandemic, Pennsylvania criminal court systems shut down for months in 2020—an event that added to an already lengthy backlog of cases to be tried. Proponents of waiver trials point out the efficiency and added safety considerations compared to jury trials. Large groups of people are requested for a potential juror pool, which increases the risk of the community’s exposure to COVID-19.

If you’re facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, it is essential to understand what a waiver trial is and the benefits of this choice. This allows you to decide how to move ahead in your case and whether it’s in your best interests to waive your right to a jury in support of a waiver trial.

What’s the Difference Between Jury vs. Waiver Trials in Pennsylvania?

While most people understand what a trial by jury involves, there is often confusion surrounding waiver trials––also called bench trials––in Pennsylvania. Both jury and waiver trials have distinct benefits that depend on the circumstances of the criminal case. However, both types provide a defendant with the same constitutional rights.

In a Pennsylvania jury trial, 12 people consider both parties’ evidence and arguments before finding the defendant guilty or not guilty of their charges. While the jury determines the verdict, the judge makes rulings on evidentiary and procedural matters, including:

  • What evidence or documents the jury can consider in making their decision
  • Who can bear witness to the evidence provided in the case
  • What those witnesses can give testimony about, contingent upon the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence

In a Pennsylvania waiver trial, the judge makes these rulings on evidentiary and procedural matters and determines whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Further, the judge must make this verdict within seven days of the completion of the trial.

What Are the Benefits of a Waiver Trial in Pennsylvania?

If you’re facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, speak with your criminal defense attorney about whether a waiver trial is the best decision for you. Some reasons your attorney may advise that a waiver trial is a better option may include:

  • Your case has complicated legal matters: If the issue under consideration involves a significant comprehension of the law, a waiver trial ruled by a judge may be desirable.
  • Your case involves an intricate rule: If an argument amounts to implementing a complicated criminal law, a jury of lay people may not understand it and ignore it completely.
  • The jury may have biased opinions: Depending on your case’s details, jury members may be more prone to biased views and struggle more to keep a neutral view than a judge.
  • Waiver trials may provide a quicker resolution: Without the need for jury selection and time-consuming jury deliberations, waiver trials can begin and conclude sooner, whatever the outcome may be.

Remember, each case needs to be assessed to establish whether waiving a jury trial lies in your favor. The best way to learn whether you should select a waiver trial over a jury trial is to consult with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer who can review the unique details of your case.

Speak to an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Montgomery County, PA, Today

If you’re facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, get in touch with a well-versed criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You can weigh factors when choosing a jury trial or waiver trial, but retaining a criminal defense lawyer with substantial experience litigating cases through both types of trials can offer insight.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C., we know what it takes to achieve favorable results for our clients who face criminal charges in Montgomery County and across Southeast Pennsylvania. With over 65 years of experience, our criminal defense lawyers know what it takes to build a powerful defense to achieve the most favorable results on your behalf. To speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer over a free case review, complete our contact formor call 215-822-7575 today.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
March 18, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.