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What Is a Bench Trial?

Different kinds of court trials exist. Such trials vary depending on the entity that is to render judgment; some may make use of a jury while others only need a judge. A court trial that is only brought before a judge and requires only a judgment from a judge, it is referred to as a bench trial.


A bench trial is differentiated from a jury trial wherein a jury, a panel of randomly selected individuals, deliberates and reviews the facts of the case in order to render judgment. A bench trial has the same responsibility, only that it is rendered by a judge, an individual who works within the area of law. The judge may make the final decision with regards to the resolution of the case as well as any other rulings, procedural or administrative.


Civil legal systems often deal with bench trials rather than jury trials. Civil cases such as probate, family matters, and divorce proceedings are often presented before a bench trial. Petty criminal offenses are also commonly judged by means of a bench trial.


It is possible that in a matter of a civil case brought before a bench trial; the litigant is within his or her rights to request the judge for a jury trial. However, jury trials and bench trials follow the same procedure and rulings. The choice of bench trial or jury trial if such a choice is exists depends on the suit; criminal offenses may wish to be presented before a jury trial in the hopes of gaining a less severe punishment.

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