When you think of the justice system, you probably think of trials—lawyers, judges, and witnesses. While trials are an important part of our judicial process, most criminal cases don’t even make it to trial. When a case does go to court, however, it’s important to understand the way the procedure works.
Here’s a brief summary of how a typical criminal trial unfolds.
After a suspect has been arrested, booked, and posted bail, he or she then must attend an arraignment. At an arraignment, a judge reads the charges and reminds the accused of their right to legal representation.
After the initial arraignment, the prosecution and the defendant’s attorney will then negotiate a plea bargain. A plea bargain can greatly reduce the sentence as long as the accused pleads guilty to one or more of the charges. Around 90 percent of all criminal cases end with a plea bargain, and is often a good choice for those who have little or no chance of being acquitted.
If the accused refuses the plea bargain and pleads not guilty, the trial itself begins. The defendant’s lawyer and prosecution argue their cases, present evidence, and question witnesses in front of a judge and jury. After each case has been thoroughly presented, the jury of twelve then deliberates until they reach a unanimous verdict.
Acquittal And Sentencing
Once the verdict is returned, the judge reads it aloud to the court. Either the defendant is found not guilty, at which point he or she is set free; or the defendant is found guilty, at which point the judge hands down the sentence. If the defendant takes issue with a part of the trial proceedings, he or she may choose to appeal the decision at a higher court.
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