A criminal is given the opportunity to be fairly and equitably trialed for the very reason that the system aims to prevent locking up innocent people until proven guilty. It’s for this reason that a criminal trial exists so that an impartial judge can decide whether sufficient evidence has been presented and legally collected, leaving them with no reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of a crime.
What is the process of a criminal trial?
Since a criminal trial is really to present all relevant admissible evidence to the court for the jury and/or judge to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused, it usually followed these key steps:
- The accused appears in the dock
- A document known as an ‘indictment’ is presented by the prosecutor and details the alleged offence.
- It is read out loud and the accused is asked to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.
- If the accused pleads ‘guilty’, he/she will be sentenced by the judge.
- If the accused pleads ‘not guilty‘ the trial will begin.
Following this, it’s then the prosecutors turn to present their case first and will follow this sequence of events:
- opening statement by the prosecution;
- calling of witnesses to give evidence;
- questioning of the witness by the prosecution;
- cross-examination of the witness by the defence lawyer; and
- re-examination of the witness by the prosecution.
This same process is then repeated by the defendant.
Once all evidence has been presented by both the defence and the prosecution, there is one final chance for each to address the jury before the judge runs through all of the evidence and clarifies any points of law for the jury.
It’s then up to the jury to leave the courtroom and consider whether the accused is guilty or not guilty based on the evidence provided. Usually, the verdict of the jury must be unanimous. This verdict is also known as
- acquitted – when the jury thought there was not enough evidence to prove that the accused was guilty beyond reasonable doubt
- convicted – the jury thought there was enough evidence to prove that the accused was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
If someone is acquitted, they are free to leave the court house, however if the jury finds them guilty and convicts them, the judge will impose the required a sentence.
This is a general guide outlining the main steps in the criminal trial process. If you are facing trial, it can be useful to understand what the process looks like ahead of time so you know what to expect. Our team of experienced criminal lawyers are available to support you through these process and representing your needs fairly and equitably. Get in touch with our team today.