The trial is the readily recognized process where a jury of 12 registered voters from the community listen to the evidence and decide what happened. If the jury is convinced unanimously as the guilt or innocence of the defendant, the case will end. If not, the jury is hung, and the case will revert back to the pre-trail stage and must be tried again within 60 days if a resolution cannot be reached. A trial without a jury is known as a court trial where the judge determines the facts of the case. A jury trial is not allowed for infraction offenses, or juvenile cases. The right to a jury trial is the greatest protection for criminal defendants to have a fair hearing in front of citizens that aren't cynical and jaded by overexposure to the criminal system. In addition, criminal clients enjoy the protection of the highest burden of proof required in the law, that is unanimous proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once a person is convicted by way of either a plea of guilty, or no contest, or a verdict by a jury after trial, the case proceeds to sentencing. This is the time at which the attorneys provide information to the Judge to help the court decide what punishment is appropriate in the particular case. The law allows for the court to consider input from various sources to help make decision about punishment. Victims, probation, family, friends, sentencing experts, the D.A., and defense counsel can be heard at sentencing. In addition, post-trial motions may be brought at sentencing to send the case back to trial or to reduce or eliminate charges or "conduct enhancements" against the defendant.
Post Conviction Motions
Unlike an appeal, post conviction motions are commonly brought and granted when an experienced criminal attorney is managing them. Knowledge of local courts and procedure is paramount in a motion to modify a sentence or a probation term. If the terms of punishment are unbearable, or impossible to perform, call our office right away so we can discuss strategies for alternatives or requests to modify your sentence.
It's not over 'til it's over, and then it probably isn't really over. The criminal law allows for several legal methods to look back in the past and fix errors or problems with any of the decisions made by the judges in the case, or to go back and resurrect the case and bring it back to the punishment stage, the trial stage or earlier. A criminal appeal following a conviction must be filed within a short period of time or the right to appeal is lost. Delay is fatal to the right to appeal, because an individual convicted of a crime has less rights that a defendant whose case hasn't been resolved yet. Appeals are costly and time-consuming affairs that require a high level of expertise and are statistically unsuccessful. Consult with our office if you want to discuss the possibility of an appeal you may be considering.
I hope this outline helps you to understand what one can expect when facing criminal charges and accusations. This outline applies generically also to federal cases, but there are substantial differences in state courts and federal courts. Thank you for your attention, please contact me, or endorse me, if this information was helpful to you.