The Sixth Amendment does not specify the number of jurors that are needed to constitute a jury. While 12-person juries were required under the common law, the states are not required to provide juries of that size. At least six persons are required to constitute a valid jury, however. While six-person juries must render unanimous verdicts, 12-person juries may render verdicts concurred in by a 3/4ths majority.
The right to a trial by jury granted in many state constitutions has been construed to provide for jury trials in instances where the Sixth Amendment does not (i.e., where the maximum sentence is less than six months). It should be understood that while a state constitution (or statute) may not validly prohibit a jury trial in instances where such a trial is required by the Sixth Amendment, it may permit a jury trial in instances where such a trial is not required by the Sixth Amendment.
Most states have statutes governing the right to jury trials in criminal cases. Obviously, the statutory rights cannot be less permissive than the rights granted in either the Sixth Amendment or the state constitution. Some statutes base the right to a jury trial on the penalty provided for a crime, while others base it on the category of the offense. In most jurisdictions, a defendant accused of any drunk or impaired driving offense is entitled to jury trial. In some jurisdictions, however, jury trials are not permitted for DUI offenses wherein the maximum sentence is less than six months.
Copyright 2015. William C. Head. All Rights Reserved.