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A criminal trial is the process by which the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney in a criminal case present the facts of the case to a jury, and the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. Preparing for a criminal trial can be intimidating and stressful, and to do so absolutely requires the expertise of a knowledgeable criminal attorney. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in San Diego, contact Sevens Legal as soon as possible by calling (619) 430-2355. Our attorneys have dedicated their careers to fighting for the rights of the criminally accused, and we are here to help you navigate your criminal trial.
- Every person accused of a crime and facing a criminal trial in California is considered innocent until proven guilty.
- Defendants in California criminal trials are afforded certain rights under the law, and knowing and exercising these fundamental rights is the key to guaranteeing a fair trial.
- In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove each element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt to prosecute.
- At the very end of a criminal trial, the jury will render a verdict of guilty, known as a conviction, or not guilty, known as an acquittal.
Defendants in California criminal trials are afforded certain rights under the law, and knowing and exercising these fundamental rights is the key to guaranteeing a fair trial. If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge in San Diego, you have the right to an attorney, the right to a public trial, and the right to know the nature of the criminal charges and evidence against you. You also have the right to have an impartial jury of your peers decide your guilt or innocence.
According to the law, every person accused of a crime and facing a criminal trial in California is considered innocent until proven guilty. This is known as the presumption of innocence, and under this legal principle, the prosecution bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged crime if the defendant is to be convicted.
So, what exactly is the prosecution required to prove to get a conviction in a criminal trial? The specific details vary from case to case, but the overall concept is the same. Every criminal offense consists of certain elements or facts of the crime, and the prosecution must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to prosecute.
The criminal trial begins with jury selection and ends with jury deliberations and the announcement of a verdict, with several other consequential steps occurring in between. Criminal defendants must learn about the stages of a criminal trial in California to ensure that they receive a fair trial.
- Jury Selection – The first step in a California criminal trial is jury selection, during which the attorneys from both sides choose a jury totaling 12 people. This process is called “voir dire.”
- The Trial – The trial itself encompasses several important steps, including the attorneys’ opening statements, the presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses by both sides, jury instructions, and the attorneys’ closing statements.
- Jury Deliberations – After hearing the jury instructions, the jury will proceed to the jury room to deliberate or discuss the testimony and evidence presented at trial.
California is the largest court system in the United States, with 58 superior or trial courts – one per county. In San Diego County, criminal cases are heard in the Central, East County, North County, and South County courthouses.
At the very end of a criminal trial, the jury will render a verdict of guilty, known as a conviction, or not guilty, known as an acquittal. If you are found not guilty, the jury has determined that you are innocent of the alleged crime. You will be released and you can never be tried for the same crime again. If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced for the crime.
In any criminal case, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict in your criminal trial, the judge may declare a mistrial, in which case the prosecution may decide to refile the case. If the judge declares a mistrial and dismisses the case “with prejudice,” it cannot be retried later.
When faced with a criminal charge in California, defendants typically have to go to court to defend themselves and argue to have the charge reduced or dismissed. In some situations though, a criminal case may be withdrawn and charges dropped or dismissed before ever going to trial. There are many different reasons a California criminal case may be withdrawn pretrial, including the following:
- Insufficient evidence to prove that the crime occurred,
- Lack of probable cause,
- An illegal stop or search,
- An improper criminal complaint or charging document, or
- At the prosecutors’ discretion.
In short, yes. A defendant’s right to a public trial is protected by the First and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. However, there are some exceptions that may warrant closed proceedings in a criminal trial. For example, the court may close a criminal trial to the public to protect the privacy or safety of witnesses testifying at the trial. Juvenile proceedings are also typically closed to the public.
Yes, you can attend a criminal trial in California courts, so long as the trial is not closed to the public. You do not have to schedule an appointment, but seating in the courtroom is typically first come, first served.
According to the 2023 California Rules of Court, Rule 1.150(e), media coverage of a California criminal trial may be permitted “only on written order of the judge.” Rule 1.150 also states that “The judge in his or her discretion may permit, refuse, limit, or terminate media coverage,” noting that “This rule does not otherwise limit or restrict the right of the media to cover and report court proceedings.”
In a perfect world, the criminal justice system would deliver equal and just treatment to all individuals accused of crimes, protect the rights of the innocent, and ensure that all defendants in criminal trials have fair access to an attorney. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The only way to ensure that your legal rights are adequately protected at trial is to enlist the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Our criminal attorneys at Sevens Legal offer a free consultation to prospective clients in need of legal assistance.
If you are accused of a crime in San Diego and facing a criminal trial, don’t wait to get qualified legal help. Call our award-winning San Diego criminal defense team today at (619) 430-2355.