Federal jury trial rights

Currently in the United States every person accused of a crime punishable by incarceration for more than six months has a constitutional right to a trial by jury, which arises in federal court from Article Three of the United States Constitution, which states in part, "The Trial of all Crimes...shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed." Most states' constitutions also grant the right of trial by jury in lesser criminal matters, though most have eliminated that right in offenses punishable by fine only. The Supreme Court has ruled that if imprisonment is for six months or less, trial by jury is not required , meaning a state may choose whether or not to permit trial by jury in such cases. Specifically, the Supreme Court has held that no offense can be deemed 'petty' for purposes of the right to trial by jury where imprisonment for more than six months is authorized. Justice Black and Justice Douglas concurred, stating that they would have required a jury trial in all criminal proceedings in which the sanction imposed bears the indicia of criminal punishment. Chief Justice Burger, Justice Harlan and Justice Stewart objected to setting this limitation at six months for the States, preferring to give them greater leeway. No jury trial was required when the trial judge suspended sentence and placed defendant on probation for three years. There is a presumption that offenses carrying a maximum imprisonment of six months or less are petty, although it is possible that such an offense could be pushed into the serious category if the le islature tacks on onerous penalties not involving incarceration. No jury trial is required, however, when the maximum sentence is six months in jail, a fine not to exceed $1,000, a 90-day driver's license suspension, and attendance at an alcohol abuse education course. The Supreme Court found that the disadvantages of such a sentence, "onerous though they may be, may be outweighed by the benefits that result from speedy and inexpensive nonjury adjudications." Such interpretations have been criticized on the grounds that "all" is not a word that constitution-makers use lightly. In the case of traffic offenses punishable by fine only (including parking tickets), and misdemeanor charges providing for imprisonment of six months or less, the availability of trial by jury varies from state to state, usually providing only for bench trials. The two exceptions are Vermont and Virginia, which provide the defendant with the right to a jury trial in all cases, which means if one is willing to pay the cost in case of a loss, one may even obtain a jury trial for a parking ticket in those states. In Virginia, one wanting a jury trial on a minor misdemeanor or traffic offense would actually have a right to two trials if they wanted a jury trial on the issue, first by bench trial only in District court, and then, if they lost, to a trial de novo in Circuit court, this time with a jury if they chose to do so. Many juvenile court systems do not recognize a right to jury trial, on the grounds that juvenile proceedings are civil rather than criminal, and that jury trials would cause the process to become adversarial.