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The 7 Stages of a Criminal Trial
Learning about the seven main stages of a criminal trial means that you’ve started the process of preparing for your criminal trial. Although not all criminal cases reach the courtroom, doing everything you can to prepare is essential for ensuring a positive outcome for your case.
Also, it’s very important to secure adequate legal representation by hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer in San Diego. Without a knowledgeable professional at your side, your chances of securing a favorable diminish. Now, let’s see what you can expect to go through during a criminal trial.
What are the 7 stages of a criminal trial?
You have to be familiar with the seven steps of a criminal in order to do everything you can to get ready for everything that awaits. Criminal proceedings start the moment you’re arrested and finish once you hear your sentence.
As you can imagine, the entire process does get rather long and complicated, which is why it’s best to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through it all. Here are the seven main steps of criminal trials.
Arrest and bail
All criminal cases begin when an individual commits a crime. Depending on the crime a person commits, there are three basic categories of crime:
People accused of citations and misdemeanors usually only have to pay fines, while felonies usually involve arrests, trials, and jail sentences. Once a person gets arrested, it’s time to set the bail corresponding to the crime.
Not all individuals accused of crimes are allowed bail. A bail is a temporary release of a prisoner accused of a crime upon paying a sum of money set by the court. Once the bail is settled, the accused gets to leave the prison under certain rules.
Bail procedure differs according to the type of crime, the criminal history of the suspect, the projected threat to the community, etc. The accused individual receives a court appearance date, and signs a promise in writing to appear in court on that date.
The date of the court appearance set during bail is usually the first court appearance of the defendant, and it’s called an arraignment. It’s usually scheduled immediately upon being accused of a crime. The following are the main points of an arraignment:
- The defendant receives a written accusation of all the charges being made.
- The defendant makes a response concerning the charges by pleading not guilty, guilty, or no contest.
- The judge takes the time to consider any issues concerning bail.
- The judge decides on the upcoming court dates, including preliminary hearing, pre-trial conference, and the trial itself.
If you haven’t already, arraignment is the perfect time for you to hire an experienced criminal lawyer to help you win your case as quickly as possible.
In California, the court holds preliminary hearings shortly upon filing the charges. The purpose of preliminary hearings is for the judge to decide the existence of probable cause against the defendant as a reason to hold the trial.
If the judge deems there is insufficient evidence against the defendant, the case is dismissed. However, if the judge decides there is probable cause, the case proceeds to trial. A criminal defense attorney will use preliminary hearing to get as much information and details about the case from the prosecution.
There are three most common outcomes when it comes to arraignment:
- The judge rules that the defendant has to stand trial.
- The judge reduces the defendant’s charges to a less serious offense.
- The judge dismisses the case entirely.
The pre-trial conference serves as an opportunity where the judge, the defense attorney, and the prosecutor meet in order to discuss the possibility of a plea bargain. The two sides, the defense and the prosecution, share opinions on what a fair resolution to the case would be, considering the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history.
If you’ve hired an experienced defense attorney, they will be able to make a “mitigation package” that will present the defendant’s personal situation in an attempt to convince the prosecution to agree to a plea bargain suitable for the defendant.
The mitigation package can include letters from various friends and family members, as well as reputable community leaders. Upon discussing the plea with the judge and the prosecution, the criminal defense lawyer will take the offer to the defendant to think about. It is the defendant’s own choice to deny or accept the plea bargain.
If the case reaches the courtroom, it’s time for a trial in front of the jury. There are several steps that make a jury trial, and it’s best to get acquainted with them early on. Needless to say, although you can represent yourself in the court of law, you should always hire legal representation.
- Approximately one hundred potential jurors arrive at the courtroom.
- The judge, the prosecution, and the defense questions the jurors to select 12 impartial individuals.
- The judge examines all the evidence in order to allow or dismiss it.
- The prosecution and the defense make opening statements.
- The prosecution calls witnesses to the stand to present the case.
- The defense has the opportunity to cross-examine all the witnesses brought forth by the prosecution.
- The defense presents its case when the prosecution finishes.
- The defense now calls forth its witnesses, and the prosecution gets the chance to cross-examine them.
- The prosecution and the defense make their closing arguments.
- The judge explains to the jurors how to do their duty as they leave the courtroom to deliberate.
Once the jury comes back, it’s time to read the sentence. It has to be made clear that sentencing is always a decision made solely by the judge. It doesn’t have to correlate with the decision reached by the jury, although it usually does. These are the aspects the judge takes into account when reaching a sentencing decision:
- The circumstances of the arrest and the crime
- The defendant’s criminal history
- Whether or not the defendant is a repeat offender
- The judge also considers all the mitigating and aggravating factors concerning the case.
Once the judge takes all the aspects of the case into account, he or she reaches a verdict and announces the sentence.
Appeals allow the defendants unhappy with the sentence to contest the decisions made by the jury and by the judge. The defense cannot make any new arguments when appealing, but can only challenge the sentence itself.
In order to start the process of making an appeal the defendant must file Notice of Appeal. Once this is done, the process continues at an appellate court of higher jurisdiction. Your criminal defense attorney will present the appellate judge with instances not handled adequately by the court, leaving it up to the judge to reach the decision of whether or not the sentencing stands.
Who is the leading criminal defense lawyer across San Diego to help me with my case?
If you’re in trouble, and you need legal representation, you will not find a finer legal mind than Vik Monder, the best criminal defense lawyer in the San Diego region. He has worked hard to assemble a capable team at Monder Criminal Lawyer Group, and they will do all in their power to secure a favorable sentence for you.
Take some time to process things, take a walk around the Cabrillo National Monument, and clear your head. But, once you do, immediately contact Vik Monder. The sooner you start preparing for your case, the better. Contact us today!