Most people in Indiana have never been arrested and probably never will be. But, each year thousands of people in our state face criminal charges and, in some instances, those cases go all the way to a criminal trial. If you are facing the prospect of a criminal case going to trial, what do you need to know?
Criminal trial overview
Well, for starters, it is important to understand that quite a bit of groundwork goes into preparing for a criminal trial, both for the prosecution and the defense. Each side must prepare to persuade a fact-finder – whether that is a jury or just a judge. However, the burden for each side is different. For the defense, there is supposed to be a presumption of innocence, which means that the default position for the fact-finder should be that the defendant is not guilty of the charges in the case. The high burden in a trial rests with the prosecution, who must prove each element of the charges in the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
As the trial begins, a jury must be selected, if it is a jury trial. Next, the sides will present opening statements – a kind of “overview” of what the case is about and what the sides expect to show. After that, the heart of the trial begins: the presentation of evidence. Witnesses will be called and evidence will be admitted. Once the presentation of evidence concludes, the sides will then usually make closing arguments, which are a last-chance attempt to persuade the fact-finder.
If the case is in a jury trial, the last part of the trial is for the jury to deliberate and return a verdict. In a bench trial, the judge will be the one to issue a verdict.