Last year, Senate Bill 213 was put forth by State Senator Marty Block of
San Diego. The bill would have reduced the number of peremptory challenges
counselors would have during the jury selection process. That bill failed
to make it to the governor's office—but this year, an identical
bill has been included in the state budget, meaning that it will likely
pass and change the way juries are selected in all misdemeanor cases.
What Are Peremptory Challenges?
Peremptory challenges allow a lawyer to dismiss a potential juror without
giving a reason why. Currently, prosecutors and defense attorneys have
the ability to do this 10 times in the jury selection process—20
times if a life sentence is a possibility. While they have been a customary
part of the criminal defense process, peremptory challenges have also
been criticized by lawmakers, criminal justice advocates, and even U.S.
Supreme Court justices.
Last year, before SB 213 failed,
the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board wrote this: "The best-known problem with peremptory challenges—a
lawyer's dismissal of a prospective juror without a stated cause—may
be that too often there actually is a cause, and it's an improper
one. For example, lawyers have used their no-stated-cause challenges in
attempts to remove jurors because of their race, gender or sexual orientation."
The Times Editorial Board also made a financial case for reforming California's
peremptory challenge system: it makes maintaining our criminal justice
system more expensive. Jury selection is one of the most time-consuming
parts of a criminal trial. By allowing lawyers 10 peremptory challenges,
the trial process is made even longer and thus more expensive to conduct.
The New Law
Under the new law, defense attorneys and prosecutors will only have six
peremptory challenges is misdemeanor cases, not 10. Lawmakers and advocates
believe that this will not only speed along the process but also limit
the number of questionable jury dismissals.
Generally speaking, limiting peremptory challenges has not been supported
by defense attorneys. As the Times notes, defense attorneys have already
voiced frustration with the limitations that come with potential juror
examinations. When the new bill is passed in this year's budget, it
will dramatically increase the need for knowledgeable and discerning defense
counsel during the jury selection process.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a serious crime, then our team at
The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC invites you to call us today. Our proven and sought-after San Diego criminal
defense lawyers are engaged with the ever-changing dynamics of our justice
system and continuously provide informed and effective counsel to our
Hire a legal advocate that is capable of securing results. Contact our
firm today to request a free case evaluation.