Steps in a Criminal Trial


1. Arraignment

After the arrest or initial incident, the accused that’s charged with a crime is called before a criminal court judge. During this period there are many things that occur:

  • The charges are read
  • The defendant decides whether he or she will be using an attorney or public defender (if eligible)
  • The defendant pleads “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest”
  • The judge decides bail and conditions for defendant’s release
  • Announces dates of future proceedings in the case, such as the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and trial

2. Preliminary Hearing

During the preliminary hearing, a “mini-trial” of sorts takes place. This pre-trial hearing is not meant to exhaust all of both sides tactics and strategies. It is more so meant to see if the evidence and facts are enough to take the case to trial.

  • Evidence is presented
  • Witnesses are called
  • The prosecution tries to establish probable cause

3. 2nd Arraignment 

This procedure is the same as the first arraignment.

4. Pretrial Hearing & Motions

Pre-trial motions are completed after the preliminary hearing and before the jury trial. There could be numerous pre-trial motions during a case made by either side. These motions help to determine:

  • What evidence will be permitted
  • Legal arguments to be made
  • Whether a trial is necessary

5. Jury Trial

Evidence is presented and arguments are made. The prosecution tries to prove guilt to the jury “beyond a reasonable doubt.” There are usually six phases in a criminal jury trial:

  1. Jury selection
  2. Opening arguments
  3. Witnesses and cross-examination
  4. Closing arguments
  5. Jury instruction
  6. Deliberation and verdict

6. Post-Trial Motions

After the trial, the judgment must be made formal by the court. After this happens, either side can file a motion to the trial court. Examples of post-trial motions are:

  • New trial
  • Motion to amend or nullify the judgment.
  • Motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV)
Categories: Awards, Criminal Defense