If you are the defendant in a criminal prosecution and you are contemplating taking your case to trial, you undoubtedly want to understand how your criminal defense attorney will prepare your case for trial. Although no two criminal cases are the same, there are some steps common to the preparation and litigation of a criminal prosecution. To help you better understand what is involved in trying your case, Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains 10 common steps in a criminal prosecution.
- Initial consultation with you regarding your rights. Most people have a vague knowledge that they have rights; however, the average person does not always know what those rights are nor how and when to exercise them. Your attorney will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case.
- Appearing in your case and reviewing the prosecution’s file. Your defense attorney will file an official appearance with the court which alerts both the court and the prosecuting attorney that you are represented by counsel. From that point forward, no one may speak to you about the case without your attorney present. Your attorney will also review the probable cause affidavit, or police report, that provides the details that allegedly provided the legal basis for your arrest.
- Requesting discovery from the state. The term “discovery” refers to the process by which information is exchanged in a criminal prosecution. The prosecuting attorney, for example, must provide your attorney with a list of all State witnesses, all evidentiary reports, and other critical pieces of the case against you. Many jurisdictions have a standing discovery order that requires the prosecuting attorney to turn over this material automatically while others require the defense attorney to officially ask for it.
- Conducting depositions. A deposition is a discovery tool that occurs outside of the courtroom but in the presence of a court reporter. The person being deposed is under oath, meaning the penalties of perjury apply. Your attorney can depose any of the State’s witnesses. The purpose of a deposition is to find out what the witness will say at trial. Answers given during a deposition can be used to impeach the witness if the witness changes his/her testimony at trial.
- Analyzing evidence. The State may have had evidence, such as ammunition, electronic records, or DNA evidence analyzed by their own experts; however, the defense also has the right to have independent experts analyze the same evidence.
- Filing preliminary motions. In a criminal case, some issues are litigated prior to the actual trial, such as the exclusion evidence if your attorney believes there is a legal basis by which the evidence might be excluded, such as an illegal search and seizure. Typically, a hearing is held to argue these motions in front of the judge.
- Submitting proposed jury instructions and a final witness list. Your attorney must file a final witness list letting the State know everyone that might be called as a witness for the defense. Each side may also file proposed jury instructions that may be used to explain important concepts to the jury.
- Preparing opening and closing statements. Each side may make an opening and closing statement in front of the judge or jury. The goal is to explain what that side believes will be proven or has been proven.
- Jury selection. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will spend a considerable amount of time contemplating jury selection. Many factors go into deciding who the ideal juror will be. Although neither side is likely to end up with an ideal group of jurors, preparing ahead will increase the odds of getting favorable jurors on your jury.
- Preparing you to testify. Because the State has the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you are not required to testify at your trial. If you are your attorney, decide it is in your best interest to testify, however, you need to be prepared because the prosecutor will also get to question you.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer
If you have additional questions about a criminal case in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.