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VALID WAIVER OF THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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VALID WAIVER OF THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

A person charged with crimes punishable by incarceration, has a right to be tried by a jury. Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 1(1)(a)[1] However, Minnesota law permits a defendant to waive his right to a jury trial and to consent instead to a bench trial.[2] The controlling rule requires that the defendant personally waive his right to jury trial: The defendant, with the approval of the court may waive jury trial provided the defendant does so personally in writing or orally upon the record in open court, after being advised by the court of the right to trial by jury and after having had an opportunity to consult with counsel.[3]This rule is of constitutional significance:

American constitutional law, as well as the common law, places a premium on the jury trial. Rule 26.01 reflects this emphasis; the rule clearly requires a jury trial in the absence of defendant's intelligent and recorded waiver.[4]

A. Elements of A Valid Waiver of the Right to a Jury Trial[5]

  1. The trial court advising the defendant of his/her right to a jury trial
  2. The defendant personally waiving his right to trial by jury
  3. The waiver should be in writing and signed by the defendant
  4. An oral waiver of the defendant's right to a jury trial made by the defendant is sufficient, if the record clearly indicates the defendant was advised of his right to a jury by the court and he waived that right and requested a trial by the court
  5. The record should be clear and unambiguous that the decision to waive the right to a trial by jury was made solely by the defendant

What if a defendant wants to withdraw a jury trial waiver?

A defendant may withdraw a jury trial waiver any time before trial begins.[6]

NOTE: Every case, where there is no specific waiver by the defendant of the right to a jury trial on the record, has been reversed by the court of appeals.

The waiver requirement of Rule 26.01 mandates a simple procedure to protect a basic right. Just as the police are required to advise an arrested individual of his rights, so must the court comply with Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01. The rule must be strictly construed. [7]Strict compliance is required in order to assure hat the waiver is voluntarily and intelligently made.[8]


References:

  1. Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 1(1)(a); State v. Sandmoen, 390 N.W.2d 419, 423 (Minn. App.1986)
  2. Sandmoen, 390 N.W.2d at 423
  3. Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 1(2)(a)
  4. State, City of Tracy v. Neuman, 392 N.W.2d 706, 708-09 (Minn. App.1986)
  5. A person charged with crimes punishable by incarceration, has a right to be tried by a jury. Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 1(1)(a)
  6. State v. Stevens, A10-1979, 2011 WL 5026224 (Minn. App. Oct. 24, 2011)
  7. Id.; State v. Ulland, 357 N.W.2d 346, 347 (Minn. App.1984).
  8. Sandmoen, 390 N.W.2d at 423-24