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Changes in criminal law may benefit North Carolina defendants

Being arrested can feel as though much of the control is out of a defendant's hands. From whether an individual will be eligible for bond to who the prosecutor will be, it sometimes seems there is little freedom of movement in criminal law. However, a new change to North Carolina law may put a little bit of control back into the hands of those accused of committing a crime.

The recent election in November included several measures for citizens to vote on. One of those measures that was approved gives defendants the right to request that a criminal case be tried in front of a judge instead of a jury of their peers. The only criminal charge that this does not apply to is first-degree murder, but only if the case involves the death penalty.

One state Superior Court judge was uncertain of the measure. He even went as far as to say that he would much rather prefer that a jury decide his fate, rather than one of his fellow judges. Another judge admitted that there were reasons a defendant might prefer a judge to a jury.

Although there were experts on both sides of this measure, the people of North Carolina pulled together with their votes to make a constitutional amendment that they felt was right. While this new law certainly gives those accused of a crime more leeway with handling their charges, caution may be advisable. As with any other decision concerning a defense in criminal law, careful review of the charges, evidence and the impact of either a judge or jury trial can be beneficial. When every factor is weighed, it may be easier for a defendant and his or her counsel to proceed in such a manner that will garner the most favorable outcome possible.

Source:, "New laws affect you if...," Kevin Ellis, Nov. 30, 2014

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