Justices let ruling stand that reserves right to request misdemeanor juries to defendants

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The Indiana Lawyer on 06/12/2018 by Olivia Covington

An Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that reserved the right to demand a jury trial in misdemeanor cases to defendants has been upheld after the Indiana Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s challenge to that ruling.

The Court of Appeals’ February decision in State of Indiana v. Latasha Bonds, 49A02-1704-CR-770, interpreted Indiana Rule of Criminal Procedure 22 to mean that defendants, not the state, can file a request for a jury trial in misdemeanor proceedings. That issue became relevant when Latasha Bonds requested a bench trial for her charges of Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license and possession of marijuana.

The Marion Superior Court agreed to hold the bench trial and denied the state’s written demand for a jury trial, finding prosecutors did not have the right to make such a demand. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, with Judge Cale Bradford noting that Rule 22 holds that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor must file a written jury trial request with 10 days before the first scheduled trial date.

“Criminal Rule 22, however, makes no mention of any procedure by which the State may request to have the case be tried before a jury,” Bradford wrote. “If the Indiana Supreme Court had intended for the right to trial by jury to be extended to the State, it easily could have indicated that the procedures set forth in Criminal Rule 22 applied in equal force to both the accused and the State.”

The court also found support for its position in Indiana Code section 35-37-1-2, which was amended in 2015 to say that, “Unless a defendant waives the right to a jury trial under the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure, all other trials must be by jury.”