Commission to Discuss Proposal to Waive Jury Trials

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission will meet Monday, March 17 to discuss how to explain a proposed amendment to voters, who will see it on the November ballot.

The amendment would allow criminal defendants (not facing the death penalty) to choose whether to waive his or right to a jury trial. Under the proposed amendment, ratified by the General Assembly July 9, a defendant could opt to have his or her case heard and decided by only a judge.

This procedure is already an option in federal court, but in order for it to become a choice for superior court defendants, a majority of voters would have to approve the measure in November. With a majority approval, the proposed amendment would become law Dec. 1. The new rule then would apply only to criminal offenses arraigned in superior court on or after this date.

Currently, the North Carolina Constitution requires defendants be granted a trial heard by jury. A verdict must be decided unanimously by 12 jurors.

At Monday's meeting, set for 10 a.m. at the Old Revenue Building in Raleigh, the Constitutional Amendment Publication Commission will prepare an "understandable explanation" of the proposed amendment to include on the November ballot. The Commission said the meeting will not be a forum for people to advocate in favor or opposition of the amendment.


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