With a criminal case, you generally have two options:
- You can fight the case, or
- You can try and settle the case.
If you decide to fight the case, you will assert both legal defenses and factual defenses.
A legal defense
will be asserted before trial, and will be decided by the judge.
For example a motion to suppress your statement, claiming that the statement was obtained under duress. Or a motion to suppress a search, claiming lack of probable cause to search.
Perhaps a Motion To Dismiss:
- a motion to dismiss for double jeopardy
- a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction
These are questions that the judge is going to answer. After the judge has addressed the legal issues raised in your case, the next step is going to be trial.
Moving Forward To Trial
In a trial, the jury will determine the factual issues of the case. Basically, whether or not you're guilty or innocent.
Trial is a long process. It starts off with jury selection and opening statements, then the government presents their case, the defense presents their case, and then closing arguments.
Let's unpack that, because there's a lot that's going to happen in that process.
Let's start with jury selection.
Jury Selection (Voir dire)
Your attorney really begins trying the case at jury selection. Your lawyer will begin presenting the themes and the ideas that are going to lead to the jury ultimately concluding that you're not guilty. That's where the seeds are planted and the jury will start coming to terms with your defense. Things with reasonableness, if a mistaken identity is in the case - all these things are going to start being addressed during the jury selection process. After jury selection, we're going to move on to opening statements.
Things with reasonableness if a mistaken identity is a case all these things are going to start being addressed during the jury selection process. After jury selection we're going to move on to opening statements.
Opening statements are basically a summary of what you think is going to happen in the case.
After opening statements, the government's going to proceed with their case-in-chief. They will bring in all their witnesses against you. During that time, we have the opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses.
After the government's case-in-chief is the defense’s opportunity to present evidence.
It's going to be our opportunity to put on any witnesses that we want to put forward. Maybe we have an alibi witness, maybe we have a witness who was there when this happened. That's going to be our opportunity to put forth evidence to the jury.
Then lastly, we're going to have our closing arguments - where we're going to tell the jury why you are not guilty.
If you choose to fight the case, and you do take it to trial, and you lose, the game is not up.
There's still another level, which is appeal.
At appeal, the appellate court is going to address all legal issues from your case. This is why it's very important to have an attorney who knows how to raise these issues in the first place, and then preserve them, in order for you to be able to appeal them down the line.
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