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Bench Trial Process

What is a bench trial process?

A bench trial is a term usually used in common law to describe trials without juries. It is a trial in which there is no jury involved and the concerned party appears before a judge. Bench trials deal mainly with civil cases. The judge plays the role of the jury, determining the facts in the trial and applying them to the law in question so as to come to a verdict. A bench trial is comprised of rules of evidence and methods of objection similar to a jury trial, but bench trials are more informal and faster because there are fewer formalities involved. Below are some top questions answered by Experts on bench trial process.

I am due to attend a bench trial for a speeding ticket in which all the important information is incorrectly recorded. How can I prepare and what are the documents required for the trial?

In any trial including a bench trial, the evidence is critical. The prosecutor must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that you are guilty. Errors on speeding tickets are not rare. Although simple mistakes may not pardon your guilt, it could indicate the officer was careless or in a hurry while issuing the ticket. There are many instances in which police could be involved one their computers or phones while driving and could thus perceive the incident differently from what actually happened. You would need to demonstrate this to the court. The documents you need to bring with you would be a copy of the officer’s report and any other documented evidence or proof that could weaken the case against you.

I am suing a car dealership and the defendant has a lawyer for the bench trial. Should I hire the services of a lawyer as well?

The bench trial process is usually conducted in front of a judge. Even if you were to have a lenient judge preside over your case, fighting your case on your own will leave you at a tremendous disadvantage when you are up against a lawyer. Hence, if you can afford a lawyer it would be wise to do so than lose over a legal technicality.

We are scheduled for a bench trial in Arizona. We do not plan to appear in court. What are the consequences of failure to show other than the plaintiff being awarded a default judgment?

There are no serious legal ramifications if you miss the court hearing. The judge could hold you in contempt which implies a fine or even jail time. But that is unlikely if the petitioner or plaintiff is awarded a favorable ruling. However the plaintiff would have incurred costs on hiring the lawyer and initiating a trial. Hence even if he/she wins they would incur additional costs. It would be sensible to negotiate with the plaintiff and arrive upon an agreeable amount of compensation. If a settlement can be arrived upon there is no need to hire a lawyer. It can be decided in front of the judge or as an out of court settlement. The choice of which path to take depends on which the plaintiff would prefer.

I was due to appear for a bench trial for a speeding ticket when I was informed the trial had been postponed as the concerned officer was unavailable due to a family emergency. Is this allowed?

Yes this is allowed provided the judge agrees to the change or continuance. The court routinely issues a continuance for cases such as this. It is a standard procedure. You could file a motion to dismiss but if the amended date is just a few weeks from the current date, it is unlikely the judge would grant your motion. Bench trials deal with smaller civil cases in which you may find yourself for such issues as a speeding ticket, failure to pay rent, and so on. You have the option to represent yourself or use the services of a lawyer. In either scenario, clarifying your questions with the help of Experts and being armed with right information about bench trial processes may help you protect your interests.

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Tina, Lawyer
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Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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Recent Bench Trial Questions

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    1) Plaintiff’s attorney has done an extensive background search of me and my company. So much of one I was even presented with information about my children being molested. As if to say he would use this information.
    2) I would like to be given the time to do a thorough search of the plaintiff and his knowledge of the plumbing industry.
    3) Plaintiff’s father was a plumber in China and was an active participant in the planning of this project and the directing of everyday operations
    4) Council paints Plaintiff as a victim. I would like to prove to this court he is not a victim but a shark who he and his father a Chinese plumber knew what he was getting into when he contracted with my company.
    5) When asked I divulged all the information that council wanted even putting him on the path to speak with the Attorney General and the plumbing inspector.
    6) I have been denied all information requested. Plaintiff’s council won’t even produce a witness list.
    7) The rules for discovery are intended to provide the means for fair and full disclosure of the facts
    8) Denying Defendant the means for fair and full disclosure puts Defendant at a disadvantage to Plaintiff who has been given full disclosure by Defendant.


    Quash Summons Notes


    1) Plaintiff’s council has left out a substantial part of the form outlined in Rule 101(b) (1). This Summons form required plaintiff to add in a Notice to Defendant. Plaintiff’s council egregiously left that out. This is plain misconduct on Councils part.
    2) As Plaintiff’s council knows, Defendant was in fact Pro Se and Council knew that he was not a lawyer and could benefit from the Notice being given. That is why it was left out.
    3) Defendant states and Plaintiff’s council can attest that Defendant unknowingly was going by the wrong rules of court. Defendant was going by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This was only found out when council told Defendant that the federal rules do not apply to state courts.
    4) Had Plaintiff’s councils misconduct not occurred and Defendant been served a Notice to Defendant he would have been able to fight his case at least as much as possible on a level playing field.
    5) Had defendant been given a Notice to Defendant he would have known to file a demand for Jury trial rather than give an oral motion.
    6) Council with this substantial egregious act of misconduct has put Defendant back two and a half months.
    7) Because of this egregious act of misconduct Defendant was not able to use his right to a jury trial and is 2 ½ months behind on this case. For this I believe this honorable court should declare a mistrial and dismiss this case with prejudice.
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