What to Expect at Trial
If you have been accused of a crime or are facing criminal charges, you need to understand what to expect during your case, especially when it proceeds to trial. Knowing what to expect at trial can give you a better understanding of your rights and help you adequately prepare for the upcoming legal proceedings.
As a criminal defense attorney at Venessa Bornost, P.A., I can provide you with the guidance you need to help you make the most informed decisions about your case at every stage of the process. My office is located in Dunedin, Florida, but I also represent individuals facing criminal charges throughout Hillsborough County and Pasco County.
Trial in the Criminal Justice Process
Before we dive into the specifics of what to expect at trial, we need to discuss how you can go to trial in the criminal justice process. During the arraignment, a defendant is identified by name and is read their formal charges. The arraignment is also the defendant’s opportunity to enter a plea. What happens next – and, particularly, whether or not the case proceeds to trial – depends on which plea you enter during the arraignment.
Plead guilty or “nolo contendre” (no contest). After pleading guilty or no contest, the case will proceed straight to sentencing, which is the process in which the penalties for the crime are decided.
Plead not guilty. If, however, the defendant pleads not guilty, they will be given a reasonable amount of time to prepare for trial. The case moves on to a trial where the defendant and their legal counsel will have to prove they are innocent.
In Florida, there can be a trial by jury or a trial by judge. If it is a trial by a judge, both sides – the defendant and the prosecution – present their arguments in front of the judge, and then the latter makes the final decision in the case. In a trial by jury, both sides first select the jurors and then proceed to argue their case in front of the jury and a judge.
Steps to Take Before Your Trial
There are ways to protect your rights even before the trial begins. The essential steps to take before your trial include but are not limited to:
Meeting with your attorney to discuss your defense options.
Gathering evidence and talking to witnesses.
Exploring the weaknesses and holes in the prosecution’s case.
Preparing for and attending pre-trial hearings.
In fact, the steps you take before your trial will set the stage for the trial. The outcome of your case depends on how prepared you are and what decisions you make along the process. For this reason, it is critical that you get help from a criminal defense attorney early in the process to start preparing a winning defense as soon as you can. An attorney is well-versed in the criminal justice system and can walk you through every step of the way to fight for the most favorable result possible.
What to Expect at Your Trial
In most cases, the trial consists of the following stages:
The parties make their opening statements.
The prosecution presents its case against the defendant.
The defendant’s attorney cross-examines the prosecution’s case.
The defense presents its case.
The prosecution cross-examines the defense’s case.
The parties make their closing arguments.
The verdict is rendered.
When presenting evidence, the prosecution has a goal to prove that the defendant committed the crime they are accused of. The defense, on the other hand, will seek to prove the prosecution wrong by demonstrating the holes in the prosecution’s case. The prospection has the burden to prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. After hearing both sides and reviewing the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense, the judge or jury will decide whether or not the defendant is guilty.
Steps to Take Following Your Trial
There are two possible outcomes of the trial:
The finding of not guilty. If the defendant is found not guilty, they will be released without having to worry about incarceration, probation, or fines.
The finding of guilt. If the defendant is found guilty, their case will move on to sentencing, which can occur a few weeks after the trial. In some cases, sentencing may take place immediately after the verdict is read.
However, the trial may not necessarily be the last step in the case. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an appeal or acquittal may be available after the trial.
Fight for Your Rights
Facing criminal charges is always a terrifying experience. However, it is important to keep calm and understand what to expect during the process that lies ahead of you. At Venessa Bornost, P.A., I provide comprehensive legal representation and trusted guidance to people who face criminal charges. If this sounds like your situation, reach out to my office and request a consultation. Let’s fight for your rights together.