Mississippi State Court
In a felony case you have the right to be tried by a jury of 12 people. This number is implicit in Mississippi’s Constitution, which states in Section 31 that “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate . . . .” The Mississippi Supreme Court stated way back in 1884 that “The right to be tried by a jury of twelve men is a constitutional privilege.” Hunt v. State, 61 Miss. 577 (Miss. 1884). More up-to-date is Mississippi Uniform Rule of Circuit and County Court Practice 10.1, which states “In felony cases not involving the possible sentence of death or life imprisonment, the defendant and the prosecution shall have six (6) peremptory challenges for the selection of the twelve regular jurors.” No doubt about it, if you are charged with a felony in Mississippi, you are entitled to have 12 jurors listen to your case, who must ALL agree BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT as to your guilt, before you can be convicted.
Misdemeanor cases require a little more examination. The United States Constitution “guarantees a jury trial to all persons charged with a ‘serious offense.’ ” Frazier v. State, 817 So.2d 663, 664(3) (Miss.Ct.App.2002). “A serious offense is one for which the defendant could be sentenced to more than six months in jail for committing.” Id. (citing Blanton v. North Las Vegas, 489 U.S. 538, 542-43, 109 S.Ct. 1289, 103 L.Ed.2d 550 (1989)). Mississippi defines a misdemeanor as “a criminal offense punishable by a maximum possible sentence of confinement for one year or less, a fine, or both.” Uniform Circuit and County Court Rule 6.01. Misdemeanor cases are usually handled in municipal or justice courts, with an appeal to county court, and, going back to Uniform Rule of Circuit and County Court Practice 10.1, it states “In all criminal misdemeanor actions tried in county court a six (6) person jury shall be used, whether the case originated in county court or was appealed from lower court.” There are a number of little scenarios that can play out, depending on which court you are charged in, and what you are charged with, so it really pays to consult with an attorney when you are faced with a potential misdemeanor jury trial.
Juries in DUI Cases
Before I move on to federal juries, let me briefly address DUI juries, because the question comes up all the time. The maximum confinement for DUI(1st) is 48 hours – there is no right to a jury for first offense DUI. The maximum confinement for DUI(2nd) is not less than five days, or up to one year, so you do have a right to a jury when charged with DUI(2nd). Any subsequent DUI (third offense or more) is a felony, and you are entitled to a jury trial as stated above for any felony.
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23 states that if you are entitled to a jury trial in a criminal case, you will get one unless:
- You waive your right to a jury in writing;
- the government consents; and
- the court approves.
The rule goes on to state that “A jury consists of 12 persons unless this rule provides otherwise.” BUT, unlike Mississippi courts, the parties (the defendant and the prosecutor) may agree to less than 12, or may agree that a jury of fewer than 12 persons may return a verdict if the court finds it necessary to excuse a juror for good cause after the trial begins. Further, the judge may permit a jury of 11 persons to return a verdict, even without an agreement by the parties, if one juror is dismissed for good cause.