How Do Juror Challenges Work in Florida Criminal Cases?
Every person charged with a crime in Florida has the right to a jury trial. This right is always at the defendant’s discretion. If you are facing a criminal charge, you can elect to have the judge decide your guilt or innocence without a jury. But the prosecution cannot force you to do so.
At the beginning of a criminal trial, the judge will preside over the selection of the jury. This is known as voir dire. The judge, the prosecutor, and the defense question a panel of potential jurors. The purpose of these questions is to ensure that anyone selected for the jury will be impartial. That is to say, they will decide the case based solely on the evidence presented and the judge’s instructions as to the law. Jurors must not allow any personal bias or prior knowledge of the case to influence their decision.
Peremptory vs. For Cause Challenges
To help ensure the selection of an impartial jury, either the prosecution or the defense may challenge the seating of a potential juror. There are two kinds of challenges. The first, a challenge “for cause,” means that either side believes there is some reasonable doubt as to the juror’s impartiality. The judge must then decide whether that is the case, and if so, the challenged juror must be excused from the trial.
The second type of challenge is known as a “peremptory” challenge. This is where the prosecution or the defense wishes to excuse a juror for essentially any reason. Indeed, the challenging side usually does not even have to state the reason to the court. It may just be that the attorney “has a bad feeling” about a particular juror and does not want to take a chance.
That said, a peremptory may not be used in a discriminatory fashion. For example, say a Black defendant is on trial for a serious felony. The State’s Attorney cannot use a peremptory challenge to systematically exclude all Black jurors from the panel. The defense can raise an objection and the judge can ask the prosecution to provide a “facially neutral” reason for the challenge. If the judge is not satisfied with the explanation, they can reject the challenge.
It is important to note that there are a limited number of peremptory challenges for any given criminal case. In capital cases, each side has 10 challenges. In non-capital felony cases, each side has 6 challenges. In all other cases, each side has just 3 challenges. If two or more defendants are tried together, each defendant has the same number of challenges as if they were tried alone, but the prosecution gets “as many challenges as are allowed to all of the defendants.”
Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today
Jury selection is one of the most critical aspects of a criminal trial. And if you are the defendant facing charges, it is important to work with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney who will aggressively defend your rights. Call the Joshi Law Firm, P.A., today at (407) 661-1009 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.