What Happens When a Criminal Case Goes to Trial

No one wanted to be on the defendant’s side of the table in the courtroom.

That alone should be enough to keep people in check.

How many stories have we heard over the years where someone who was completely innocent spent decades in prison or were even on death row for a crime they didn’t commit.

So being on the defendant’s side of the table in a courtroom is not a good place to be.

That’s why hiring a defense team is your best option.

Navigating the court system, especially a trial for a criminal conviction, can be daunting and can have a profound effect on the rest of your life.

Most people, if asked, would profess that they would fight criminal charges against them to the bitter end if they were innocent.

But what exactly does that look like for the average person?

Would you take the case to trial or should you take a plea bargain?

If you choose to go to trial what exactly should you expect?

These questions will always be asked by your lawyers and only you as the defendant can answer them. But having an educated view is better than going into a trial blind and not having a clue as to what the outcome might be.

Criminal Process in Nevada

Before anyone sees the inside of a courtroom there are a few things that take place to even get you inside a courtroom.

First, there will be an arrest, citation, or indictment of charges against you.

If you are arrested you may have to post bail or bond to get out of jail pending trial.

These are the first steps before any court appearances.

Once these steps happen, then the case will make its way through the court system, leading up to a trial and conclusion of the case.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense you should seek out experienced legal advice and hire a lawyer to help you navigate the court system.

Call The Defenders today to speak with a lawyer and have your case reviewed by an expert.

The Court Process

After arrest and before the actual trial, there is an in-between stage that takes place, this starts with the arraignment.

An arraignment is usually the first court appearance the defendant makes.

During the arraignment, the defendant is presented with a complaint listing the charges against them.

The defendant is then given the opportunity to enter a plea; this plea is either guilty or not guilty.

Most of the time, the defendant enters a not guilty plea.

Once the plea is entered, the court will schedule the next court appearance that will either be the beginning of the trial or a preliminary hearing.

Another option is another court date with a status check or a pretrial conference that gives both sides an opportunity to reach a plea agreement.

Pretrial Court Appearances

The sixth Amendment to the constitution states that the accused has the right to a speedy trial.

This means different things in different states and as we know from famous cases like the O.J. Simpson trial, speedy wouldn’t necessarily be the term associated with trials.

The thing that holds up most trails from moving forward is pretrial delays and court appearances.

After the arraignment, the case moves to the pretrial phase.

The pretrial phase is when the defense team receives discovery, which encompasses all the evidence collected by the prosecution intended for use against the defendant.

This is presented to the defense. Pretrial conferences give both sides the opportunity to discuss a plea bargain instead of being found guilty at trial.

Preliminary Hearings

This phase occurs when an individual is charged with a felony. During these court appearances, the judge determines whether sufficient evidence exists for the case to proceed.

Defendants almost always lose the preliminary hearings because the burden of proof is lower than an actual trial.

They are useful because it gives the defense team an idea of what will be presented at the actual trial and can help the defense decide if a plea bargain is a better option.

This is the time where charges may be dismissed, amended, or held over for trial.

Going to Trial for Criminal charges in Nevada

Trials only happen if a plea bargain isn’t reached between the prosecutor and the defense, or the charges are not dismissed.

There are, however, pretrial motions that take place before the trial.

These are court dates to work out motions between both parties and can include anything from an application to change the venue or a motion to suppress evidence.

These are one of the reasons court cases tend to drag on even though we have the right to a speedy trial.

During these pretrial motions both sides will have the court issue subpoenas compelling witnesses to appear in court to testify for either the defense or the prosecution.

On a side note, even after a trail begins both sides can still arrange a plea bargain and the trial proceedings will stop.

In Nevada, anyone charged with a crime has the right to a trial if the potential sentence involves six months or more in jail. For cases with shorter sentences, a bench trial is conducted where the judge alone determines the defendant’s fate, without a jury. The option for a jury trial is granted only if the defendant faces more than six months in jail or is charged with battery domestic violence.

What to Expect When My Case Goes to Trial

The court system has specific guidelines about what takes place during a trial.

For example, both the prosecution and the defense can present opening arguments to the judge or jury about the case and what they intend to prove.

Each day, a court reporter conducts a roll call to ensure that all parties involved in the case are present for the proceedings.

Each witness that is to testify is sworn in before any testimony is given.

Exhibits or evidence collected and cataloged for the court must be presented, with both sides being informed about these exhibits in advance.

Everything from all court proceedings is recorded and documented by a court reporter who is present in the courtroom for every minute of the trial.

Once all the evidence is presented, both sides get to give closing arguments about why the defendant should be found guilty or innocent of the charges against them.

If the trial is a jury trial, the judge will give the jury instructions about deliberating the case and then send the jury to a private room to discuss or deliberate the case. If the trial is a bench trial then the judge will take time to deliberate the case on his or her own.

Once the jury or judge reaches a verdict, both parties will be asked to return to the courtroom where the verdict will be read.

There are three possible outcomes for a trial:

  1. A guilty verdict
  2. An acquittal of the charges and the defendant is found not guilty
  3. A mistrial where the jury cannot reach a decision as to guilt or innocence.

In the case of a mistrial, the prosecution has the right to retry the case or to review the case and determine if it is worth it to retry it.

If the verdict is guilty, the defendant can be sentenced that day or in more serious cases the sentencing phase will be at a later date.

For example, Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX co-founder, was found guilty on November 2, 2023. He was later sentenced on March 28, 2024.

Criminal Trials and Legal Representation

All defendants have the right to an attorney.

If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, the court will send your case to the public defender’s office and one will be appointed to by the court.

What people don’t realize is that most public defenders have a multitude of cases on their desk and your case will be another stack of papers.

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, not just another number or another case on their desk.

When you hire a defense team to represent you, you get just that team to take on your case.

Criminal defense firms like the Defenders have the ability to use all their resources to investigate your case and come up with a strategic defense.

If given the choice it’s always a good idea to hire a lawyer instead of having one appointed to you by the court. You get to choose your lawyer in this case and making the right choice can affect you forever.

Call The Defenders today if you have been charged with a crime and are facing trial.

Our experienced attorneys will help you navigate the complicated legal system and fight for your rights. Remember, the outcome of a trial can have lasting effects on your life, so it’s crucial to have skilled representation by your side.

Let The Defenders be your voice in the courtroom and work towards securing the best possible outcome for you. It’s not just about winning or losing a case, but also about protecting your rights and future.

Contact our office today for a free consultation.

 

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