Posted on November 27, 2023 in Criminal Law
If you are preparing for a criminal trial in Phoenix, AZ, understanding the process can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty associated with it. Being well-informed about each stage of your trial allows you to assist in making adequately informed decisions regarding your defense strategy. This information can also help you ensure that your due process rights aren’t violated.
Here’s an overview of the basic steps involved:
The first crucial step – even before commencing the actual trial – is jury selection. This process involves “voir dire,” and the purpose is to assemble an impartial group of individuals who can decide your case based on the evidence presented during trial.
It’s standard practice for both prosecution and defense attorneys to inquire into prospective jurors’ backgrounds. They assess factors such as existing biases, personal beliefs, and past interactions with law enforcement agencies. The aim is to gauge whether these aspects might sway their judgment unfairly.
If either side believes a prospective juror cannot fairly serve due to bias or incapacity, they may raise a challenge and potentially have them removed for cause.
Following jury selection, the stage is set for opening statements. Think of these as an overview or roadmap provided by each side (prosecution and defense) to guide the jury through their planned arguments and evidence.
Next begins the heart of a trial: the presentation of witnesses and evidence by both parties — starting with the prosecution followed by the defense.
The evidence presented during a trial can take many forms and will significantly vary depending on the nature of the criminal charges. Here are some examples:
Documents relevant to your case – such as financial records for felony fraud trials or text messages/emails exchanged between parties involved – can also be used as evidence.
Individuals who have personally seen activity related to the crime may describe what they observed. There might also be expert witnesses providing scientific explanations – like forensic scientists explaining DNA evidence.
Your Phoenix defense attorney can also present witnesses to refute the charges against you.
Images from a crime scene or surveillance video can also serve as crucial pieces of visual proof if available.
At the end of the prosecution’s case, your defense lawyer has an opportunity to make a motion for a judgment of acquittal. This is essentially arguing that even assuming all presented evidence as true and viewing it in a light most favorable towards the prosecution, it still does not reach legal sufficiency to convict you.
If your attorney makes this motion and the judge agrees – finding that there isn’t enough strong or compelling evidence produced by the prosecutor – they will grant an acquittal at this point, concluding proceedings without any need for the defense to present your case.
However, if denied – meaning the court believes there is an adequate basis for a potential conviction – the trial moves forward with the defense now getting a chance to present its arguments along with supporting testimonies and evidence.
This is the stage where you, as a defendant, get your opportunity to present your side. However, it’s important to know that there is no legal obligation for defendants or their attorneys to provide any evidence in rebuttal.
You are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof lies firmly with the prosecution – meaning it’s entirely up to them to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the charged offense.
Once both sides have had a fair chance at presenting their evidence and questioning witnesses, it’s time for closing arguments. These are final opportunities for each attorney to emphasize the strengths of their own case and shortcomings in the opposition’s argument before the jury.
After the closing arguments, the judge gives detailed legal instructions to the jury. These encompass explanations of your charges, any laws relevant to your case, and instructions about how the jury should deliberate on matters like assessing witness credibility or evaluating evidence.
With these directives in mind, jurors retire into a private conference room where they review and discuss all evidence before reaching a verdict. Their conversations are completely confidential. This stage can last anywhere from hours to days to weeks, depending on the complexity of the trial.
This is just a basic overview of the steps involved in a criminal trial in Phoenix if a plea deal isn’t reached before it begins. Remember that navigating these stages can become quite complex, and it’s crucial to have knowledgeable legal guidance on your side.
For more information, contact the criminal defense attorney Craig Orent. Give us a call at (480) 656-7301 or visit our law office at 11811 N Tatum Blvd UNIT 3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028. We offer a free case evaluation, so get the help you deserve today.