If you do not accept a plea bargain in your criminal case, you will be required to go through a formal trial. The trial may not take place for many months after the initial charges were filed, but it will eventually take place. When it does, here are the main stages you should expect.
Choosing a jury
While you could choose to go through a bench trial, most defendants prefer a jury trial. For this to occur, though, you will need to go through the process of choosing a jury, and this is often called voir dire. During this process, your attorney and the prosecutor will interview potential jurors as a way of selecting the best ones for their side. It often takes an entire day to complete this process.
Opening statements, evidence, and witnesses
When the jury selection is complete and the trial begins, it will start off with opening statements from each side in the case. Following that, each side will present their evidence and witnesses. Both parties will also complete cross-examination if desired. The amount of time it will take for this step to occur will depend on the nature of the case and the amount of evidence there is. It could take only a couple of hours, or it could take days.
The next step completes the trial process, in a sense, as it involves each side offering their closing statements. A closing statement is designed to wrap up the basic facts of the case and urge the jury to vote one way or another. The prosecutor would instruct the jury to vote guilty based on the evidence presented, while your lawyer will encourage the jurors to give you an innocent verdict, simply because there is not enough proof that you committed the crime.
When the sides have both completed their closing statements, the jurors will be dismissed. The judge will give them instructions, and they will convene in a room to try to reach a unanimous verdict. When they do, the court will return to session and the jury will read their verdict. The verdict settles the case, and you will be sentenced at a later point if you are found guilty.
These are the main four stages of a criminal trial, and your lawyer can help you understand these in more depth. To learn more, contact a criminal attorney today.
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