Finding yourself accused of a crime can be a concerning experience, especially if you know you aren’t guilty of that crime. Working with an accredited criminal defense lawyer can assist you in clearing your name, but not having an understanding of the proceedings can make the situation more difficult. Learn everything you need to know in advance of your case can help you follow everything that occurs.
Criminal vs. Civil Trail: What is the Difference?
First and foremost, it’s important to distinguish between the a criminal and a civil case in the United States. A civil court case most often involves disputes between people or organizations where, typically, no form of intentional violence occurred. A criminal case, on the other hand, often deals with violent crimes, whether intentional or unintentional between people and, in some cases, organizations.
To prove guilt in a criminal case, the evidence must be beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. However, a civil court case has a lower standard for proof, with a preponderance of evidence which refers to essentially something being more than likely based on the evidence.
What Are the Proceedings for a Criminal Trial?
The main reason there is a lot of confusion surrounding how a criminal trial works is simply due to the fact that the majority of people will never go through one. However, in the event you do find yourself on the wrong side of the law, the following stages are what can be expected from a criminal case. This can help you learn how to gather essential information before meeting a defense attorney to bolster your chances of success:
- The criminal investigation will first be launched by law enforcement
- The defendant will either be arrested or summoned to the court for the reading of their charges
- At an initial hearing, an official copy of the charges will be given to the defendant, followed by an arraignment hearing where the defendant announces their plea
- Prosecution will provide discovery and motions will be allowed to be filed
- A jury will be selected, and the trial will begin
- Opening statements from both sides will occur
- Prosecution evidence and witnesses will be presented
- Defense evidence and witnesses will be presented
- Cross examination of the witnesses
- Closing arguments
At any point during the criminal justice process, prior to the official determination of the verdict, both sides may enter into an agreement to end the trail and to settle. This most often results in the defendant accepting a certain type of plea in return for a lighter sentence, or a similar situation.
Jury Selection Process: Everything to Be Aware Of
Serving as one of the most important aspects of the criminal justice process, jury selection is a complex topic in and of itself. There are a few basic steps for how a jury is formed and understanding where this jury of your peers came from can allow a person to better understand the criminal justice process. The steps involved with jury selection include:
- District courts will randomly select citizens’ names from a list of registered potential jurors based on driver’s license information
- An initial questionnaire will be filled out by each of those selected to see who is eligible to serve
- The selection will be summoned to the court for the beginning of the jury selection process
- Voir dire will occur in which the judge and attorneys ask the potential jurors different questions to see if anyone has a strong prejudice or potential knowledge that may impact the impartiality of the case
- In a criminal trial, 12 jurors will be selected for service whereas only six jurors will be chosen for civil duty. This does not include any alternates who are on standby in case a juror cannot serve at the last minute.
- Once a pool of jurors has been selected, the trial will begin
Defend your name in a court of law
By understanding the ins and outs of criminal court proceedings, you can better understand the information you need to provide to your attorney. This can help expedite certain aspects of the court proceedings and give you a better chance at potentially identifying witnesses who may be able to speak on your behalf. Additionally, simply having an understanding of how your case will be handled can give you a little peace of mind amidst all the confusion.