If you find yourself an unfortunate factor in the criminal courts process, you may wonder how this process is designed toward the criminal and what rights you have. For the answer to all of your burning questions, you will need to understand the step-by-step overview. Now you can find out more about the courts and what to expect.
How The Criminal Court Process Works: Step-by-Step
Judge or Jury Trial: The defense will have the right to decide whether the case will be tried to a judge or jury. This right is given under the Sixth Amendment, unless the crime is a petty offense carrying a sentence of six months or less jail time. A unanimous verdict will almost always be required for a conviction; however, if there is not a unanimous verdict, then this is known as a “hung jury” and the defendant will go free unless the prosecutor decides to retry the case. Jury selection is part of this, where the defense and prosecution select the jury itself. They will go through a question-and-answer process known as “voir dire.” Questions will be suggested by attorneys and the judge and must be answered truthfully to make a decision. Issues of Evidence: All evidence must be considered before the process starts so that the defense and prosecution can admit or exclude certain evidence. This request is called “in limine.” Opening Statements: Opening statements will be made by the prosecution and the defense to provide an outline of the case and what needs proven. Attorneys will only give information that they think will help the case. They may even choose not to give an opening statement due to the fact that they want the prosecution to do the convincing and not defense. Examinations: The prosecution will present its main case through direct examination of prosecution witnesses, and the defense has the chance to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. After this, the prosecution rests, where they finish presenting their case. Optional Motion to Dismiss: If the defense believes that the prosecution has failed to produce enough evidence, they may move to dismiss charges. This can be done even if the jury believes the evidence presented. However, in mostly all cases, the judge will deny the defense motion to dismiss. Further Examination: The defense will present its case through examination of defense witnesses, and the prosecutor will cross-examine these witnesses. Then, the defense will rest and finish presenting the case. Jury Instructions: The prosecution and defense will get together and make a closing argument that summarizes the evidence as prosecution sees it. They will determine a set of instructions that the judge will give to the jury. Prosecution Closing Argument: The prosecution will then make a closing argument that explains why the jury should render a guilty verdict. Defense Closing Argument: The defense will also give a closing argument. Their lawyer will explain why they should render a “not guilty” verdict, or give a lesser charge. After this, the prosecution will give last word if they want to rebuttal this. Jury Instructions and Deliberations: The jury will find out what laws to apply to the case and how to carry out duties. They will try to reach a verdict, though it must be unanimous. Post-Trial Motions: If a guilty verdict comes of the case, the defense may request the judge to override the jury. However, the judge will almost always deny this. Sentencing: If a guilty verdict is given as well as a conviction, the judge will sentence the defendant or set sentencing for another day.
Rights of the Defendant
The defendant has many rights throughout a criminal case even though they may think that the trial is set against them. For instance, they have a right to a public trial, a jury trial, and a speedy trial at that. They have a right to adequate representation to help them throughout the process so that they are not left feeling alone in the matter. If you have a case and need somebody to represent you in the courtroom, you need an attorney who will listen to you and help you understand your rights. At The Law Office of Peter Blair, we can give you that representation that you need. Call us today for more information.