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What happens in a criminal trial?

If you are facing criminal charges, there's a chance that you might experience the criminal trial process. Because facing the unknown can trigger stresses -- even above the stress you are probably already facing -- it's a good idea to ask questions about and understand what might happen during a trial. Speak with your lawyer to understand the process further, but here is a breakdown of common criminal trial practices.

Most cases that reach the point of trial will be heard by a jury. That means attorneys for both sides will work to choose a jury. There are rules for jury selection, but you and your attorney do have the ability to exclude jurors for certain reasons -- especially if they answer questions during the jury selection process in a way that shows they are already biased in some way related to the case.

After jurors are selected and the trial begins, attorneys on both sides of the case present opening arguments. In some cases, the defense might not present its arguments until the prosecution is done presenting a case through evidence and witnesses.

Each side also presents testimony from witnesses regarding the case. Witnesses are sworn in, which means they take an oath to tell the truth and can be charged if the court discovers they have not. The witness is first questioned by the side that called the witness; next, the other side can cross-exam the witness. After the cross-examination, the first side has an option to re-examine the witness, which can be a time used to discount anything that came up during the cross-examination.

Following the conclusion of testimony, each side offers a closing argument and then the jury is tasked with making a decision. Every aspect of the trial is important to the outcome, which is why it's important to work with an experienced attorney who knows how to accomplish the most during each part of a trial.

Source: FindLaw, "Criminal Trial Overview," accessed Feb. 12, 2016

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