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What to Expect and How to Survive the Criminal Trial Process

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What to Expect and How to Survive the Criminal Trial Process

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The Texas Criminal Trial Process

When someone is charged with a crime in the state of Texas, they may either enter a plea deal or take the case to trial. There are different types of trials but a trial by jury is one of the most common methods. Someone who is going through the trial process may be nervous about this experience. However, nearly all criminal trials follow a certain pattern so defendants can reasonably know what to expect.

Each phase of the criminal trial process contains different components. Learning what to expect at each phase can help defendants work closely with their attorneys to create a strong defense.

Criminal Trial Phases

The initial phase of a criminal trial consists of preparation. This includes the events leading up to the trial itself. When a person is arrested, they will be taken to jail and formally charged. They will also be given a court date and either bail out of jail or remain in jail until that date. Once that date arrives, the defendant will undergo an arraignment to be informed of the charges they are facing. At this point, the defendant can usually choose to enter a formal plea or go to trial.

If they choose to go to trial, the court will schedule a trial date. It is on this date that the actual trial process will begin. Most trials consists of several distinct phases. These phases include:

  • Jury selection
  • Opening statements from the prosecution and defense
  • Introduction of evidence, arguments and witness testimony
  • Final statements
  • Jury instruction and deliberation

Each phase of a trial will generally proceed in this order though some minor variations may be possible. Read on for a more detailed explanation of each phase.

Jury Selection

This is one of the most important aspects of a criminal trial. The jury will ultimately decide the verdict in most criminal trials. Jury selection involves a thorough questioning of potential jurors to find out if they can be impartial during the trial. These questions can come from the judge, the prosecuting attorney or the defense attorney.

If the prosecuting attorney or the defense attorney feels that a potential juror cannot be impartial, they may issue a challenge to have that juror excluded from the pool. They may use a peremptory challenge to exclude a juror for virtually any reason or a “for cause” challenge to exclude a juror for the specific reason of bias. Once the challenges are completed, the jury will be chosen and the next phase will commence.

Opening Statements

This phase consists of statements from the attorneys to the judge and the jury. Essentially, the attorneys will present a summary of their case. They will try to explain what they are trying to prove and how they are going to prove it.

Although no evidence is present at this phase, it is an important step that involves an attempt by the attorneys to make their case clear to the jury.

Evidence, Arguments and Witnesses

This is perhaps the most important part of any criminal trial. During this phase, the prosecution will present evidence to the court and call witnesses to the stand. They will explain the relevance of the evidence and attempt to show how this evidence indicates guilt. At this stage, they will also bring up witnesses and question them to reveal information about their case.

Once the prosecution has completed this phase, the defense will have an opportunity to present their own evidence, cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses, and introduce their own witness testimony. This consists of an attempt to show that the prosecution’s witness testimony and evidence do not sufficiently indicate the guilt of the defendant.

When both sides have completed this phase, they will rest and the next phase will begin.

Final Statements

Similar to the opening statements, the final statements in a trial are an opportunity for the attorneys to wrap up their arguments. They may summarize the case and directly address the jury. They will often reiterate key points of evidence and witness statements. The idea is to make a firm impression on the jury that will impact their decision making during the next phase.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict

Once closing statements have been excluded, the judge will deliver instructions to the jury. This will usually involve telling the jury specifically how they are to reach a verdict.

After instructions, the jury will leave to deliberate. This may take a few minutes, several days or even more. Once they are done deliberating, they will return to court to announce the verdict and the judge will pass sentence.

Final Thoughts

A criminal trial can be frightening and intimidating. Discussing the case thoroughly beforehand with a qualified defense attorney is the best way to prepare for the different phases of a trial.

If you will be going to trial, it’s important to have the strongest legal defense possible. Attorney Greg Tsioros has the experience need to protect your rights. Contact his office today at 832-752-5972.

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