Skip to Content Top

When Can I Get A Jury Trial In A North Carolina Criminal Case?


Have you been charged with a crime in North Carolina? If so, you need a criminal defense attorney who understands North Carolina criminal statutes and who is an experienced and highly skilled litigator to protect your rights inside and outside of the courtroom. This is especially true if you have been charged with a felony in North Carolina because you now have the option of choosing to have a trial by judge or a jury trial.

North Carolina Jury Trials in Misdemeanor Cases

If you have been only charged with misdemeanors in North Carolina and wish to plead not guilty, your case will first go to trial in district court.  All trials at this level are decided by a judge instead of a jury (known as a “bench trial”).  If you are convicted by the judge, you have the right to appeal your conviction to superior court.  When you appeal, your conviction and any sentence imposed are set aside and you may have a new trial in front of a jury.

North Carolina Changes Laws Regarding Jury Trials in Felony Cases

Until recently, if you were charged with a felony in North Carolina, you did not have a choice whether you had a jury trial. If you did not plead guilty to the felony criminal charge, typically as part of a plea agreement, a jury trial was mandatory in your case. North Carolina was the only state in the country that did not allow defendants charged with a felony to choose whether they wanted a jury trial or a trial by judge.

In November 2014, voters passed a constitutional amendment giving felony defendants the legal right to choose between a jury trial and a bench trial. This decision does not apply to death penalty cases where a jury trial is still mandatory. The decision was close (the vote was 54 to 43 percent) with some of the legal community arguing that the decision would result in defendants “judge shopping” as well as coercion by prosecutors.

What the decision has done is open the door to new defense strategies for individuals who are charged with a felony in North Carolina. Choosing to have a jury trial or a bench trial is an element to be considered in developing a strong defense strategy to the felony charges. Now more than ever you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the complexities of choosing a jury trial or a bench trial in felony cases. The criminal defense attorneys of The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm have the necessary experience as trial litigators to provide guidance when choosing between a jury trial and a bench trial for the best chance of a positive outcome in your felony criminal case.

Contact an Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney

“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”

The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm is a Jacksonville criminal defense law firm focused on providing the best legal defense possible to each of our clients. A criminal charge is not the same thing as a guilty verdict; however, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

No matter what type of criminal charge you are facing, you need a criminal attorney who understands the law and who has the experience to get positive results. We represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County, and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.