good options for you. The final step in the criminal justice procedure is a full trial. A trial can be a lengthy and taxing process for anyone. A trial has several steps and guidelines on procedure. Your attorney will be able to walk you through the process as it goes on, but it helps to have a good idea of what to expect. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect for your day in trial.
The first step in the trial process is jury selection. Choosing jurors is important for both sides, as these will be the individuals who eventually make the final say on your guilt or innocence. Jurors are requested at random, and then by process of selection are narrowed down to twelve, who will then be the ones seated for the case.
- Voir Dire: The voir dire process allows both sides and the judge to be educated on the jurors, and likewise allows the jurors to see what cases they may be deliberating upon. The potential jurors will be asked questions that allow the attorneys and judge to determine whether or not they will be able to deliberate fairly and without bias.
- Challenges for cause: At times, an attorney from either side may motion for the removal of a juror. Most often the motion will be a challenge for cause. The "cause" must be pursuant to the guidelines of the court, and the judge will make the final say as to whether that juror will be removed. Causes can include any factor that may inhibit a potential juror from making an unbiased decision.
- Peremptory challenge: Attorneys from either side can also issue a peremptory challenge to remove a juror. A peremptory challenge does not have to have reasoning behind it, and can be used in lieu of a challenge for cause if the cause was denied, however, each attorney is only provided a limited number. In capital offenses, each attorney may reject up to twelve jurors. For crimes that will be punished with time in a state prison, each attorney may reject up to six jurors. All other cases, each attorney may only reject three jurors. On top of this, peremptory challenges must be issued one at a time, alternating from the prosecution's side to the defendant's side.
Before the trial can take place, both sides can head to court dates for a number of pretrial motions that can be issued by either side in an effort to help their chances on the trial day. These can include:
- Arraignment: The arraignment hearing is the initial hearing of the defendant before the judge. During this portion, the defendant will enter in a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this time you will also let the judge know, if you haven't already, that you will be seeking the aid of an attorney. If you already have selected an attorney to represent you, he will attend this hearing as well to notify the judge.
- Suppression Hearing: These are hearings that will take place in front of the judge concerning whether the suppression of evidence is valid, depending on how the evidence was obtained. Evidence can be suppressed if it was obtained without a warrant or reasonable cause; or at times if it was obtained outside the warrant's guidelines.
- Omnibus Hearing: The omnibus hearing is meant to cover motions for discovery, and any other pre-trial motions. Discovery is the process by which the attorneys from each side discuss the evidence, witnesses, or any other items that they will bring against one another in court. After that, any other outstanding pre-trial motions that have not been resolved will either be scheduled for a hearing, or resolved at this hearing, if possible. The overall goal of an omnibus hearing is to be certain all motions have been set up, make sure the time in court is used efficiently and properly when it comes time for the trial.
- Opening Statement: The purpose of the opening statement is for the attorneys from each side to address the jury, to lay out the structure and purpose of their arguments, and to state what they intend to prove. In most cases, the attorneys may not directly argue their points, or connect evidence when discussing it. The statement should only reflect what they plan on presenting to the jury.
- Evidence Presentation: This is the real "trial" portion of the trial. Evidence for or against you will be presented in the form of actual physical evidence, witness testimony and examination/cross-examination, written testimony, etc. At this point in time, your attorneys will be handling the courtroom proceedings and trying to influence the jury to your side.
- Closing Argument: The closing arguments are the final statements on each side that try to wrap up the case and show either the defendant's innocence or guilt based upon the evidence presented. This is the last chance your attorney has at influencing the jury's opinion before deliberation.
- Deliberation: After each side's closing arguments have been heard, the jury will then deliberate amongst themselves to reach a verdict.
- Verdict: The verdict must be unanimous. Pursuant to Washington State court regulations, if a jury does not wholly agree on a verdict, the jury may be asked to retire for further deliberation, or they may be dismissed and the defendants will be tried again.
For further inquiry on Washington States court and trial proceedings, see the official site of the courts. It is highly recommended that you seek the help of an attorney before going into the battleground of a trial by jury. If you are facing criminal charges, and you want to fight them in court, contact Steve Karimi today, and let my extensive experience as a former prosecutor work for you.