What The Trial Process Is Like
If you are facing criminal charges, it is important that you understand the trial stages and legal process so that you can navigate the process confidently and make informed decisions about what is best for you. The attorneys at Dobson Law Firm, PLLC, will keep you up to date about what is going on with your case from start to finish, providing you with exceptional legal guidance through all phases.
Once you are charged, you should not discuss what you are charged with – or any of the circumstances – with anyone until you have secured legal representation. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors will not hesitate to use any statements you make against you when your case goes to trial.
How The Criminal Trial System Works
Not all criminal cases go to trial. In some cases, the charges are dropped when insufficient evidence exists, and in other cases, the defendant can avoid a trial by accepting a plea agreement that is mutually acceptable to the defendant and prosecutors.
If your case does go to trial, however, here are some important things to know about the process:
- Type of trial: Cases involving misdemeanor charges are resolved in District Court. Typically, the trial is overseen by a judge without a jury. The outcome of this trial can be appealed, in which case, a jury would be summoned. Felonies are resolved in Superior Court, except in cases where the district attorney offers a misdemeanor plea. Felony trials typically have a 12-person jury.
- Jury selection: Prosecutors and the defense will each be able to ask jurors pre-approved questions to ensure that they can be fair and impartial when deciding your case. Each side has a number of jurors they can ask to be removed without cause. During the questions, if a juror proves to have a bias and cannot be fair, then any juror can be removed for cause regardless of how many have already been removed.
- Opening statements: The prosecutor and defense attorney will each start the trial by making opening statements before a judge. This statement is a basic outline of the case and the evidence they intend to introduce to prove their sides of the case.
- Introducing evidence: Both sides have the opportunity to introduce evidence that is relevant to their cases. Attorneys can also attempt to limit the use of some evidence – or prevent its use as a whole – through motions before and during the trial. An example of evidence that might be excluded is evidence that is irrelevant, is misleading, has been obtained illegally or violates your constitutional rights.
- Witnesses and cross-examination: Both the prosecutor and the defense will have the opportunity to call witnesses to testify, and each side will have a chance to cross-examine the other side’s chosen witnesses in order to highlight weaknesses or inconsistencies in their testimony. In cases where the defendant decides to testify, the prosecution can ask the defendant questions as well.
- Closing arguments: After all evidence and testimonies have been given, both sides will give a closing statement. This is a summary that reminds the jury of all the evidence that was presented that helped to prove their argument or evidence that weakened the other side’s argument.
- Deliberation: Before deliberation begins, the judge will give the jury instructions on how to determine if the defendant is guilty or innocent.
- Sentencing: If the defendant has been found guilty, the trial moves on to the sentencing phase. The prosecutor and defense attorney will again make arguments regarding what penalty is appropriate in light of the charge and all relevant information. Sentences commonly include jail time, fines, probation, house arrest and community service.
While most cases follow the outline provided above, each case can vary depending on the circumstance and charges. It is absolutely important to have an attorney to guide you through this process. Regardless of whether the charge is for drugs, assault, domestic violence or another offense, you need someone to stand up for your rights and help you make the best decisions for you and your family.
Prepare For Trial With A Free Legal Consultation
At your first meeting with Dobson Law Firm, PLLC, we will answer all your questions and help you understand how best to respond to the charges you are facing. To schedule a free initial consultation with our firm, call 984-297-0075 or contact our office by email.
From our office in Raleigh, we represent clients throughout central North Carolina.