Criminal Trial Process
What is the criminal trial process?The criminal trial process usually is a multi step process starting with investigation and ends with sentencing and possibly appeals. Investigation begins with the police investigating a crime with the purpose of collecting evidence to isolate a person of interest and hold up an arrest. A search may be required, but probable cause must be present, probable cause is defined as information indicates that proof of criminality can be located in that area.
After investigation has taken place an arrest of the suspect by law enforcement, which involves the suspect being taken into custody and being held until court. Again probable cause is needed for an arrest to be made.
After an arrest has been made then prosecution begins by a district attorney. The decision to charge a suspect is made by the prosecuting attorney after determining the depth of the evidence and the significance of the crime.
After the prosecutor has determined that the evidence is strong enough they may file information or an indictment by a grand jury may occur. An indictment is required when the prosecutor is prosecuting a capital offense. If a grand jury is to decide whether or not to bring charges, it is in a closed hearing where only the prosecutor is able to bring forth evidence, the defendant has no right to be present or to have representation present. If the prosecutor files information then a preliminary hearing will be held to conclude if the evidence is strong enough to bring about a trial. At this hearing the defendant and his representation may be present to refute the charges.
At the time a trial has been deemed necessary an arraignment is scheduled for the defendant to appear in court to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this time pretrial detention or bail will be set. The bail is money to be paid for the defendant or by the defendant to make sure that they will be present for the trial. Plea bargaining may also happen around this time, a plea bargain is when a person agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence or charge reduction.
A trial then occurs where the prosecutor and a defense attorney are both participating parties, before a judge or jury. For conviction to occur guilt has be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, if doubt is there and based on reason then the accused is able to be acquitted.
If the defendant is found guilty of the crime, the judge then hands down a sentence, based upon the crime. Several types of sentencing are available such as fines, probation, and incarceration. The severity of the sentencing is based upon the severity of the crime. An appeal may be filed in appellate courts and ruled on by appellate judges. If an appeal is in favor of the defendant then the trial goes back to trial court for a retrial. The prosecutor has the option at this time to re-file or drop the charges on the defendant; if the charges are dropped the defendant may still be prosecuted at a later date as long as it falls within the statute of limitations.