When you are facing criminal charges, there is a chance that your case will end up going to trial. There are several steps that occur in the criminal trial that you should be aware of so that you can properly prepare yourself to deal with each step. Your legal representation should work with you to let you know the specifics of what will likely happen at each step of the case.
Most criminal trials are jury trials. This means that a jury of your peers will hear both sides of the case and determine if the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crimes you are accused of. This jury isn’t assigned automatically. Instead, your defense attorney and the prosecutor will go through the jury selection process until the jurors are all in place.
The next step after jury selection is the opening statements. During this phase, the prosecution and the defense will each present an overview of their side of the case. This will include the facts that each side feels are important to the case.
After the opening statements are done, the criminal trial will move forward to the witness testimony. Each side can call witnesses. Once the side that calls the witness is done with each witness, the other side will have a chance to cross-examine the witness. Both sides can also present evidence during this phase of the trial.
Once all witnesses are called and all evidence has been presented, each side will give a closing argument. This is when both sides give a summary of their side. After that, the jury receives specific instructions and then the jury is sent to deliberate the verdict. When the verdict is determined, the jury lets the judge know and then the verdict is announced in court. The case will move forward with the defendant being released if the jury entered an innocent verdict or with sentencing if the jury returned a guilty verdict.
Source: FindLaw, “Criminal Trial Overview,” accessed April 29, 2016