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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700Available 24/7

The Scoop on Criminal Juries in Illinois

Posted on in Criminal Defense

criminal jury in Illinois, DuPage criminal defense lawyer“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution affords this fundamental right that is binding on all 50 states. Note that the specific language applies to criminal offenses, and not civil offenses.

Despite this clear language, most jurisdictions also offer protections in civil cases as well. A hot topic in both state and federal courts attempts to fill in what the Constitution does not say about the jury—how many members must be on each jury. In Illinois, a criminal defendant is afforded the right to a jury trial in both misdemeanor and felony criminal matters, but the number of jurors the defendant is entitled to is in no way set in stone.

Criminal Jury Trial Rights in Illinois

A recent bill passed through both the Illinois House and Senate would limit the amount of jurors required by law in civil cases from 12 to six. Presently, both civil and criminal juries consist of 12 jurors, though a civil case involving less than $50,000 in potential damages may be heard by a six-member jury. The new legislation involves changing the norm from 12 to six for all civil actions, and also involves a controversial pay upgrade for jurors. The matter is now out of Governor Quinn’s hands, as Bruce Rauner will step up to decide this legislation in 2015.

According to the Illinois State Constitution, “In criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right to... a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county in which the offense is alleged to have been committed.” Again, the language here leaves much to be desired for how many jurors should be required by law to comply with the “impartial” jury requirement enumerated in the statute. The United States Supreme Court has not definitively addressed this issue, although it has ruled that a six-person jury was in compliance with the Constitution. It is established that 12 is the traditional number of jurors and five is not enough; other than that, states have wide interpretations of how many people are needed to create a fair and impartial jury.

DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

Just because citizens have the right to a jury trial, not everyone chooses to be tried by a jury of their community peers. Certain circumstances in a criminal case may make a bench trial, or a trial heard and decided only by a judge, more appealing. If you have been charged with a crime, deciding whether you wish to have your case tried before a judge or a jury can be a life-altering decision.

Our talented attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. have experience that spans over all areas of criminal law. We understand how scary and confusing it can be being charged with a crime. Our Illinois criminal defense attorneys help clients throughout Kane, Cook, Will, and DuPage Counties with everything from traffic violations to felony homicide charges. To learn more about your legal rights as a criminal defendant in Illinois, contact our offices at 630-472-9700 today.

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