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What occurs during a criminal trial?

If you have been charged with a crime, there is a very real possibility that you will have to undergo a criminal trial. Learning more about the trial process can help you better prepare for what's to come and help you come up with a solid criminal defense strategy.

During a criminal trial, the burden of proof will be on the prosecution. This means that it is the prosecution's responsibility to build a case proving the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense will have an opportunity to disprove the prosecution's claims.

Both sides will start out with opening statements or an overview of their arguments. These opening statements will be followed by witness testimony. Each side can bring their witnesses and question them on the stand. Each witness can be cross-examined by the other side.

Once both sides have had the opportunity to present their arguments, closing arguments will be made as one final attempt to sway the jury.

The jury will then deliberate and determine whether the prosecution has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This jury is chosen before the trial after extensive questioning of potential jurors by the judge and the attorneys on both sides. Potential jurors who cannot be objective when evaluating the case will be dismissed. Before the jury deliberates, the judge will provide them with instruction and guidance to help them understand the legal principles involved in the case.

The jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges. In some cases, a jury may not be able to reach a unanimous decision. This is referred to as a hung jury and the judge may decide to call a mistrial. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will sentence him or her based on the findings.

Source: FindLaw, "Criminal Trial Overview," accessed on Dec. 10, 2016

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