A criminal trial is often a lengthy and difficult process, during which you have to fight for your freedom. Even if you have an attorney to help you through the entire ordeal, it is imperative that you understand the legal process. When you understand the criminal trial process, from arrest to sentencing, you can better prepare for your own trial.
The arrest is the first step in your criminal proceedings. In order for police to arrest you, they must have probable cause or a warrant. During the arrest and booking process, you have the right to remain silent and to consult with an attorney if police opt to interrogate you. The state must officially charge you with a crime to hold you longer than a few days in most states. If a prosecutor opts to press charges, you will move forward to your arraignment.
After the prosecutor officially charges you with a crime, you will attend your arraignment or initial hearing. During this brief meeting, the judge will explain the charges you face, your bail, and your next steps. You may also set dates for your preliminary hearing and also enter your plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
The Preliminary Hearing
Preliminary hearings typically occur within a few weeks of your arraignment. During these hearings, the state provides its evidence to demonstrate that it meets its burden of proof. If the trial will continue, the judge will set a date for the proceedings.
The Discovery and Pretrial
Discovery is the step in the process during which both your defense attorney and the state’s prosecution exchange evidence. Based on the evidence your attorney provides, the prosecutor may present a plea bargain in which you plead guilty and receive a reduced sentence. It is also during this time that your attorney can file pretrial motions, like to suppress illegal evidence.
If your case goes to trial, your criminal defense attorney will represent you in court, which includes jury selection, opening statements, presentation of evidence, presentation and cross-examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. The jury will deliberate before you receive a verdict. Jury deliberation can last several hours or days.
The trial culminates in the reading of the verdict: guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty of the charges, you may be sentenced immediately or the judge will set a date to come back for sentencing later.
Learn More About the Criminal Trial Process
If you need legal assistance, contact Kersey Law today. We can help you through this difficult process.