What to Expect During a Criminal Defense Trial

Criminal Defense
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

The prospect of going to trial in your criminal case can be incredibly intimidating. Many defendants choose to plead guilty or accept a plea agreement for this reason. However, Understanding your trial’s basic structure can help reduce anxiety. If you are facing criminal charges and are worried about your trial, an experienced criminal defense attorney can walk you through what you can expect.

The Opening Statement

Your trial will begin with each side providing their opening statement to the jury. The opening statement is each side’s opportunity to summarize the case and their argument supporting their position in the case. The prosecution will go first, and the defense will follow. It is important to note that there is no evidence submitted during this phase of the trial, and there is no cross-examination. Lawyers can raise objections with the court if they feel that the other side has said or done something inappropriate under the procedures of the court. That said, do not expect your attorney to “argue” with statements made in the prosecution’s case. Generally speaking, each side gets to present their opening statement without interruption.

The Prosecution’s Case-in-Chief

Once the defense has delivered its opening statement, it is time for the prosecution to present its case-in-chief. This is the trial phase, where they will submit evidence and call witnesses. The prosecution bears the burden of proof, meaning they must prove every element of the crimes you have been charged with. It does not matter what the prosecution says in their opening statement; you cannot be convicted unless they present evidence and testimony to support the charge during this phase of the trial.

Unlike the opening statement, however, your attorney has the opportunity to challenge the evidence the prosecution introduces and can cross-examine witnesses.

The Defense’s Case-in-Chief

Once the prosecution has introduced all of its evidence and called all its witnesses, it is now turn for the defense to present their case-in-chief. This is when your lawyer will introduce evidence and call witnesses that support your evidence. The prosecution will have the opportunity to challenge your evidence and cross-examine your witnesses.

There is an important difference between the prosecution and the defense’s case-in-chief: Technically, the defense does not need to introduce any evidence. This is because the prosecution bears the burden of proof. In other words, you do not have to do anything if they do not have sufficient evidence to prove the charge. You are innocent until proven guilty.

A common question regarding the defense’s case-in-chief is whether the defendant will be required to testify. You cannot be required to testify, and most criminal defense attorneys will strongly recommend against testifying even if you want to.

The Closing Statement

Once both sides have presented their cases, the final phase is for both sides to present their closing statement. This is similar to the opening statement—it summarizes the case, the evidence introduced, and how it supports a verdict of guilty or not guilty. With the closing statement, however, the defense will go first, and the prosecution will go last.

Facing Criminal Charges? Call Goodwin Como Today

At Goodwin Como, we help our clients take control of the most difficult situations. Let us help you take control of your criminal case. Contact us today by calling 724-438-1616 to schedule a free consultation.