Being charged with a crime probably means that at some point that person will go trial. Because of this, you may have asked what happens at a criminal trial? There are different procedures depending on where you live, however, for the most part, federal and state courts follow close procedures during a criminal trial. This guide will explain what happens before, during and after a criminal trial.
Are you curious as to what happens at a criminal trial? If so, this guide will break down what you can expect, what a bench trial vs jury trial is, and much more.
Below are the phases of a trial that typically take place they are:
- Choosing a jury
- Opening statements
- Testimony from witnesses and any cross-examination
- Closing arguments
- Instruction to jury
- Jury deliberation and verdict
Choosing a jury
Before a criminal trial takes place crucial steps will insue. Everyone knows about a jury in trials however did you know that you have a constitutional right to a jury trial if you are involved in a serious crime? Here is when you may choose a jury or bench trial. For those of you who are not sure what a bench trial is, it is a trial by a judge as opposed to a trial by jury.
Typically this means if you are facing a sentence of more then half a year in prison you can choose a trial by a jury. There are times when you will not have a right to the jury like during a juvenile court proceeding for example.
You may remember a highly publicized court hearings where the defendants want the location moved or the jury changed because of the trial not being fair. These types of things like jury selection can have a large impact on your defense. Because of this, your lawyer will usually ask jurors questions to see if the jurors will be fair or not. This is called “voir dire”.
The next phase will be the opening statements after jury selection. There are always two opening statements that are given. Once from the prosecution and the other from the defense. Here is what typically happens during opening statements:
- The prosecution presents facts from the case and walks the jury through what they are trying to prove the defendant has done. The prosecutor’s opening statement is given first before the defense team talks about there opening statements.
- The defense team presents there facts and starts there an argument against the prosecution’s evidence.
This again helps convince the jury beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed a crime. During this part of the criminal trial, the prosecutor will call eyewitnesses to testify. It is also physical evidence that will be used like photos, medical records, and other documents. Like other areas of the trial there are sequences that happen they may be as follows:
- The witness is called and sworn in where he or she takes an oath, to tell the truth
- The witness is examined
- After examination, the opposing party questions the witness
- Following cross-examination, the original side who called up the witness gets another opportunity to question him or her
Closing Arguments happen
This phase in the criminal trial will give both parties a chance to recap all the evidence that was presented and give the all-important last chance to speak to the jury before deliberation starts.
Jury instruction and jury deliberation and verdict
This is where the judge will provide to the jury a set of standards they will use to determine whether or not the defendant is guilty. The judge will decide what legal standards apply in the case for the defendant. This is based on a few things like evidence presented, criminal charges, and more at trial. After this, the case is in the jury’s hands.
Deliberation and verdict
This is where the jury goes behind closed doors to talk and attempt to agree on if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crimes presented. The process of how long deliberation can happen is from a few hours to weeks.
Most states require that all jurors agree on the final decision. If this cannot be done it is called a “Hung Jury”. Two things could happen if this takes place. The judge can either dismiss the case or start over from the jury selection stage of the trial.
Once a verdict is reached the jury will then inform the judge and the judge will announce the verdict to the court.