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A Basic Guide to the Criminal Trial Process

Last updated 6 years ago

Criminal trials are often the subject of movies and media frenzies; however, many Americans aren’t informed about the basic process of a trial. The following are the general steps taken in the criminal trial procedure:

  1. Initial Appearance: The first time a suspect appears in court, he or she is informed of the allegations, the right to an attorney, conditions of release, and the next scheduled court date. This initial appearance must take place within 24 hours of the subject’s arrest.
  2. Filing Charges: Next, charges will be officially filed against the suspect. This can either take place through a direct complaint or an indictment. A prosecutor files a direct complaint in court, which results in a preliminary hearing. During this hearing, the prosecutor establishes probable cause and witnesses to show that the suspect should be sent to trial. A judge has the power to determine that the prosecutor’s case is insufficient and dismiss the case. Alternatively, an indictment is handed out by a grand jury: 16 jurors evaluate the case and determine whether it’s sufficient for trial.
  3. Arraignment: During this step, the suspect is allowed to enter a plea. If the plea is “not guilty,” then a trial date is set. If “guilty” is plead, then a date for sentencing will be arranged.
  4. Trial: At a criminal trial, the state is required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect committed the crime. After hearing arguments from both the prosecutor and the defense, a jury will determine the verdict. Juries may contain 8-12 jurors, depending on the severity of the crime.
  5. Sentencing: After the verdict is decided, a sentencing date is set within the next 30 days. The state and defendant will again both present their arguments, this time for appropriate sentencing.

If you are under the threat of criminal charges, then it’s vital to seek out an effective criminal defense law firm. At Blumberg and Associates, our experience in personal injury law, family law, and DUI defense can be put to work for you. For more information, visit us online or call (602) 277-6180.


The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use and access to this website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.


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