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Trial in New York Criminal Law

What is a trial? In the United States, a trial is the primary way to resolve law suits or criminal prosecutions that the parties cannot settle by themselves. Trial provides a final legal determination of the disputed facts in the case.

New York CPL § 1.20

In New York, CPL § 1.20 defines a trial as follows:(11) "Trial." A jury trial commences with the selection of the jury and includes all further proceedings through the rendition of a verdict. A non-jury trial commences with the first opening address, if there be any, and, if not, when the first witness is sworn, and includes all further proceedings through the rendition of a verdict."

In New York, criminal trials can be jury trials in which a jury consisting of 6 or 12 jurors decides the outcome or bench trials in which a judge, instead of a jury, determines the outcome. Criminal trials just determine the facts, not the punishment.

Historically, jury trials were introduced in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628 in an effort to try some crimes in the colonies before juries. Leading up to the Revolutionary War, many citizens were not able to obtain a jury trial and were upset because they couldn't get a fair trial before a judge who was typically appointed by the king. The right to jury by trial became an important right that was adopted by the drafters of the US Constitution.

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