Juries and the Constitution

The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution provides that the right to a trial by jury “shall be preserved” in certain civil cases; in the Sixth Amendment, those accused of criminal wrongdoing are afforded a trial by an “impartial jury.” Even before the Bill of Rights, Article III of the Constitution stated that all trials of crimes “shall be by jury.” Obviously, the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers was a concept very close to our nation’s founders’ hearts.

Despite these declarations, though, it’s important to note that not every court case will warrant a jury trial. There are multiple circumstances which warrant a bench trial—a trial in which no jury is present and the presiding judge renders the verdict—rather than a jury trial.

Types of Juries

It’s also worth mentioning that a jury may be utilized in situations other than criminal and civil court trials. A grand jury may be utilized to help a prosecutor decide whether enough evidence exists to bring charges against a suspect in a particular case. In this instance, the jury is not rendering a verdict in the traditional “guilty” or “not guilty” sense. Grand juries also differ from trial juries in that the jurors are allowed to ask questions and view any and all pieces of evidence associated with the case. Grand juries also often have pieces of relevant legislation read and explained to them in order to help them understand applicable laws.

Trial Jury Grand Jury