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Waldorf MD Criminal Defense: What is a Jury “Voir Dire”?

If you hire criminal defense lawyers in Charles County, MD, eventually, you may end up being defended by your top-tier Waldorf, Maryland criminal defense attorneys at a criminal trial. Many know that ALL criminal trials are conducted before a “jury of your peers.” This means a jury composed of citizens selected from communities in Southern Maryland like:

  • Charles County, MD
  • Prince George’s County, MD
  • Calvert County, MD
  • Mary’s County, Maryland
  • Waldorf, Maryland
  • La Plata, Maryland
  • Clinton, Maryland
  • Bowie, Maryland
  • Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Landover, Maryland
  • And nearby Southern Maryland localities

But a jury is not composed of JUST those who live in your nearby Southern Maryland communities. As a criminal defendant, you have the right to an IMPARTIAL jury. That means a jury of Southern MD citizens who will not make a decision based on prejudice, pre-set emotions or feelings or other matters that are not based on the EVIDENCE presented at your Waldorf MD criminal trial. One of the mechanisms for preventing prejudice among your Maryland criminal jury is the process called “voir dire.” If you have been charged with a crime in Waldorf or Clinton, Maryland or in any other part of Southern Maryland, you will need the best Maryland criminal defense lawyers like the ones here at the Law Office of Robert Castro. Call us at (301)705-5137. Our criminal defense team understands the rules with respect to conducting a voir dire and are dedicated to ensuring that you have the impartial jury to which you are entitled.

What is a Jury Voir Dire?

Voir dire is the process of asking POTENTIAL jurors whether they have anything in their background or in their ideological feelings that would cause them to make a judgment that is NOT based on the evidence. In practice, this means that, before being officially “accepted” as a member of the jury, the judge will allow your Waldorf criminal defense team to ask questions of the potential jurors. If the potential juror “passes” the voir dire, then the judge will accept them as official members of the jury.

But prior to that, as noted, the judge will present potential jurors (in open court) for questioning. Usually this is done with four to six potential jurors at a time. For example, one question often asked is whether the potential juror (or a close member of their family) has been the victim of a crime. Let’s say your are charged with rape. If a member of the jury has been the victim of rape (or a close member of his/her family has been the victim of rape), this may mean that the juror will be prejudiced and will not be able to come to a verdict based purely on the evidence presented at trial. If there IS something in a potential juror’s background, then your Maryland criminal attorneys can “strike” the juror — which just means excluding them from the jury. In practice, this means the judge will say: “Thank you, potential juror. You are excused.”

The prosecuting attorneys also are allowed to ask questions and are given a number of “strikes.” Usually, your Maryland criminal defense lawyers are given about six to eight automatic “strikes” and the prosecution is given the same number.

There are also certain “strikes” that can be considered “for cause” that will not count against the limit given to each side in a Maryland criminal trial. For example, in a hypothetical St. Mary’s County, MD rape trial, let’s say that one juror states out loud to the judge: “I don’t like women and think they get what they deserve.” Well, that would be shocking, of course, and the judge would exclude that juror “for cause.”

The Questionnaire

Prior to being presented as potential jurors, the jurors fill out a short questionnaire. It asks about their educational background and work history and asks questions that might go to potential prejudice. To continue our example, the questionnaire will ask (in some form) about the following:

  • Have you been the victim of a crime and, if so, what type and when?
  • Has a member of your close family been the victim of a crime and, if so, what type and when?

It is from the questionnaires that your trusted and top-tier criminal defense attorney will begin asking questions that will help ensure that you have an impartial jury.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301)705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is: 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.