Bench Trial Questions
What is a bench trial?
A bench trial is a trial in which there is no jury involved and the concerned party appears before a judge. Bench trials deal primarily 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 to reach a verdict.
A bench trial is comprised of rules of evidence and methods of objection similar to a jury trial, but is more informal and faster because there are fewer formalities involved.
Experts on JustAnswer respond to questions on the bench trial process.
How to prepare for a bench trial regarding a speeding ticket?
In any trial, the evidence is critical. The prosecutor must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that you are guilty. Errors on speeding tickets are common. Although simple mistakes may not pardon your guilt, it could indicate the officer was careless or in a hurry while issuing the ticket.
In many instances, the police officer could be using their computer or phone while driving and may have perceived the incident differently from what actually happened. You would need to demonstrate this to the court. You should bring a copy of the officer’s report and any other documented evidence or proof that could weaken the case against you.
Should I hire a lawyer for a bench trial lawsuit if the defendant has a lawyer?
Bench trials are conducted in front of a judge. Even if a lenient judge presides over your case, fighting the case on your own leaves you at a tremendous disadvantage when you are up against a lawyer. If you can afford a lawyer, it is wiser to hire one than to lose over a legal technicality.
What are the consequences of failure to show for a civil bench trial, other than the plaintiff being awarded a default judgment?
There are no serious legal ramifications if you miss the court hearing. The judge can hold you in contempt which can result in a fine or even jail time. However, that is unlikely if the petitioner or plaintiff is awarded a favorable ruling.
On the other hand, the plaintiff will have incurred costs from hiring a lawyer and initiating a trial. Even if he or she wins they, they would incur these additional costs. A sensible option is to negotiate with the plaintiff and arrive upon an agreeable amount of compensation. If a settlement can be reached, there is no need to hire a lawyer, since the case can be decided in front of the judge, or settled out of court. Which path to take depends on what the plaintiff prefers.
Can a bench trial for a speeding ticket be postponed when the officer involved is unavailable?
Yes, this is allowed, provided the judge agrees to the change or continuance. It is standard procedure to issue a continuance for cases such as this. You can file a motion to dismiss, but if the amended date is just a few weeks from the current date, it is unlikely the judge will grant your motion.
Bench trials deal with smaller civil cases such as speeding tickets, failure to pay rent, and minor lawsuits. You have the option to represent yourself, or to use the services of a lawyer. In either situation, clarifying your questions with the help of Experts on Just Answer can arm you with the right information about bench trial processes to help you protect your interests.