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The Court Process: the 11 Main Stages
When you’re facing criminal prosecution, being familiar with the steps in the court process is very important for adequately preparing for the trial. Also, prior to the actual beginning of your criminal trial, you should learn more about the four different categories of criminal defenses, as well as what happens during criminal motion hearings.
Finally, never start your criminal trial until you hire a qualified criminal law professional. Some people only look for an affordable criminal attorney in San Diego, CA. However, you should never think only about the finances. You have to think about their experience, knowledge, and dedication to your case.
An experienced criminal law professional can help you with the many tricky aspects of criminal trials, be at your side to provide legal advice, and help you receive a favorable sentence. Now, let’s see what the stages of the court process that a criminal attorney will guide you through are.
What are the stages of the court process?
There are generally 11 main stages of the court process. Although the actual number of stages can vary depending on the case in question, the following stages occur most frequently in the majority of cases.
- Investigation – Investigation is the initial part of the criminal process, during which the investigative agencies take a closer look at the crime, obtain evidence, find witnesses, and help the prosecutor understand all the details of the case.
- Charging – Upon seeing the evidence presented by the investigators, and after taking a look at all the incriminating information, the prosecutor decides to indict an individual and take the case to the grand jury.
- Hearing/arraignment – Usually on the same or the day following the arrest and charging, the defendant appears in front of a magistrate for the initial hearing. The defendant learns more about the crime, his involvement in the crime, and the judge decides whether or not the defendant will remain in prison. If the defendant goes to prison, the judge decides to set the bail.
- Discovery – This is the part of the court process where both the defense and the prosecution prepare for the trial by assessing the facts of the crime, talking to witnesses, studying the evidence, anticipating problems, developing legal strategies, etc.
- Plea bargaining – When the Government has an extremely strong case against the defendant, they are offered a chance to plead guilty in order to avoid going to trial and to receive a reduced sentence. In case of the defendant pleading guilty, the next step is preparing for the sentencing hearing.
- Preliminary hearing – When the defendant pleads not guilty, they must enter preliminary hearing. This is the point at which the prosecution must present enough evidence for the defendant to become officially charged for the crime.
- Pre-trial motions – A motion is an application to the court made by the defense or the prosecution that requests certain decisions on specific issues be made before the beginning of the trial. The most common motions are:
- Motion to Dismiss – An attempt of the defense to dismiss the case.
- Motion to Suppress – A request that the court dismiss some evidence or statements.
- Motion for Change of Venue – If there is excessive news coverage of the case, the defense can request that the trial be moved to another venue.
- Trial – After months of meticulous preparation, the trial starts. The job of the prosecution is to use evidence and witnesses to prove the defendant’s culpability of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, while the defense tries to tell their side of the story and present evidence that speaks to the contrary. The trial usually consists of the following stages:
- Jury selection – The defense and the prosecution select adequate jurors.
- Opening statements – The prosecution and the defense present their opening statements to the court and the jury.
- Witness examination – The defense and the prosecution examine and cross-examine the witnesses.
- Objection – Both sides retain the right to object to the behavior of the opposite side.
- Closing arguments – The prosecution and the defense make their closing arguments.
- Jury instructions – The judge informs the jury of how to do their job.
- Jury deliberations – The jury goes into deliberation until they reach the verdict.
- Announcement – The jury announces their verdict.
- Post-trial motions – In case the defendant is convicted of the crime, the defense can make several motions:
- Motion for a New Trial – The defense tries to get the court to vacate the judgement and instruct a new trial.
- Motion for Judgement of Acquittal – The court decided to allow the defendant to walk free by overthrowing the jury’s verdict.
- Sentencing – A couple of months upon being found guilty, the defendant goes back to the court for official sentencing. The judge takes various aspects of the case into consideration to determine the punishment in accordance with the maximum and minimum punishments for crimes established by the United States Sentencing Commission guidelines.
- Appeal – Finally, if the defendant is found guilty of a crime, they can first appeal to the Circuit Court. If the appeal is denied by the Appeals Court, the defendant can try to take their case to the Supreme Court.
Which experienced & affordable criminal attorney in San Diego, CA should I hire?
When you’re preparing for a criminal trial, you want an experienced team of qualified criminal lawyers at your side through it all. Monder Criminal Lawyer Group is a team of the finest legal minds in all of San Diego.
We will help you go through everything that awaits, and we will represent your best interests in the court of law. If you find yourself in legal trouble, you should always contact Vik Monder first. We are located very near the San Diego Convention Center, so you will have no trouble finding us for a consultation. Contact us today.