Stages of Criminal Court Procedures

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Law | 0 comments

If you have been charged with a crime which proceeds to trial, you may be wondering what is in store for you. Like anything else legal in the US, each state has a different set of rules for court procedures, and federal court procedure is conducted differently from that in the state level. But in general, there are four stages in criminal court proceedings: arraignment, trial, verdict, and sentencing.

Arraignment is when you are brought before the judge who will read the charges lodged against you for the court records, and you are asked to state whether you are guilty or not guilty. This is called entering a plea. At this point, a criminal defense lawyer is not necessary, although it would be advisable as the judge may clarify some points about the charges which may impact on the legality of the arrest. It is entirely possible that you may be released at this point if the judge does not believe there is sufficient evidence or probable cause to prosecute the case. It is also at this time that bail may be set.

The trial itself follows if no deal is struck with the prosecution or the case is not dismissed. Before the actual trial, members of the jury will be selected by the judge and the lawyers of both sides. Once that is done, the trial date may be fixed.

At the trial, the prosecutor will present the case against you, call witnesses and present evidence. The defense may question each witness and challenge the admissibility of evidence, and may object to the way the prosecution presents its case. The prosecution may do the same when the defense takes a turn at presenting the case. When both sides have rested their case, each will give a closing statement, typically a recap of what had been presented and their interpretations. The jury will then retire to a separate room to deliberate after receiving instructions from the judge.
The verdict is the result of jury deliberation, in which they may find for (not guilty) or against (guilty) you as the defendant. There may be more than one charge against you, in which case the jury will deliver a verdict for each of the charges. Once the verdict has been read out and you are found guilty, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing, at which time the judge will decide on the appropriate punishment under the law.

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