If you have been accused of being involved in a crime, you’ll want to understand what’s going to happen next. There are numerous steps of a criminal investigation. A case must be investigated, built, taken to trial, and should the accused be found guilty, the penalties must be determined. Below we outline the second half of what happens following a crime.

Going to Trial After a Criminal Investigation

Trial Following Criminal Investigation

A “trial” is the legal proceeding during which evidence is presented either just to a judge, or in front of a jury, for the purpose of determining guilt. Typically, a trial goes before a jury, unless a defendant chooses to waive his or her right to trial by jury or if it the defendant is being charged for a certain misdemeanor. If a case is just heard before a judge it is called a “bench trial.”

Here’s the typically layout for how a trail will proceed:

Voir dire

During “Voir dire” a jury is questioned and then selected. In a capital case, there are two phases of a voir dire: the general void dire phase, and then a death qualification phase.

Guilt Phase

A guilt phase is typically opened with a prosecutor’s opening statement. During this statement a prosecutor will lay out the state’s direct case.

The defense is then able to either make an opening statement, or depending on the jurisdiction, reserve its opening statement for the beginning of its case-in-chief. A defense may ask the court to acquit with the argument that there is legally insufficient evidence to convict a defendant.

If the defense’s motion is denied, the defense will then present its case-in-chief. Following the presentation of the defense case, the prosecutor and defendant are each able present a rebuttal case. Once again, the defense is able to motion for an acquittal. If the defense motion is again denied, closing arguments are presented by each side. The jurisdiction of the case will determine the order of closing arguments. Once the closing arguments are heard, the case is then submitted to the jury or to the bench (in cases where only a judge is hearing the case) for deliberation. Following deliberation, the jury or judge will return a verdict.

Verdict

A judge or jury is asked to return a verdict, which is the decision on the disputed issue in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.

Sentencing

If the defendant has been found guilty on even one count, the counts must be charged and a formal imposition of the punishment occurs. Depending on the jurisdiction in which the case is being tried, a judge or the jury will decide the punishment the offender will receive. Typically, before a sentencing hearing is conducted, a probation officer will prepare a pre-sentence report that contains a variety of information that can help inform a judge or jury that is imposing sentence. Examples of information that can be included in this pre-sentence report include: the offender’s prior criminal record, the offender’s characteristics, financial condition, social history, and circumstances that have affected behavior in the past. Most jurisdictions now also require these reports contain information on the victim. Typically sentencing hearings will not occur unless the offender is present, but this requirement can be waived in certain instances. Most jurisdictions allow for the victim’s right to be present and also allow for a victim impact statement to be made during the sentencing hearing. A victim impact statement is a written or oral statement made either by a victim or a victim’s family as part of the judicial legal process. This statement allows crime victims the opportunity to speak during the sentencing of their attacker or at subsequent parole hearings.

During the sentencing hearing, the court has three options:

  • The court may impose sentence, which can include imprisonment or some other punishment, including: probation, community service, or a treatment program.
  • The court may decide not to sentence the offender, but to rather suspend imposition of sentence and place the offender on probation.
  • The court may impose sentence, but suspend the execution of the sentence and place the offender on probation subject to conditions.

After a sentence is imposed, a court will enter a judgment of the conviction, set forth the plea, the verdict, the findings the adjudication, and the sentence imposed. At this point, an offender is able to make a motion to set aside the verdict.

Restitution

Restitution is the monetary payment made by an offender to the victim as a way of compensating the victim for any financial consequences that were caused by the crime. Typically, restitution must be requested at or before sentencing.

During the criminal case, the victim will receive an order for the amount of restitution that will be paid and a payment schedule for the restitution payments. When an offender is released from prison and is also no longer on probation, a victim may be obligated to go to civil court to convert the restitution order into a civil judgment in order to collect additional restitution.

Appellate Review by the Defendant or the State

If a defendant or attorney feels that a court has done something wrong during a trial, the attorney can choose to have the case tried in appellate court. Here are some of the more common appellate review options:

  • Interlocutory appeal: an appeal of a non-final court decision. This can occur anytime before the final judgment.
  • Direct appeal: may be taken after the final judgment has been rendered.
  • Post-conviction relief: A motion that may be brought by the defendant.
  • Habeas corpus: A defendant may petition for habeas corpus under state and federal law, which means the defendant can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment.
  • Writ of mandamus: compels performance of a mandatory duty.
  • Writ of prohibition: issued by a higher court to a lower court prohibiting that lower court from acting in excess of its jurisdiction.

Probation & Probation Revocation Hearings

A defendant might receive probation instead of imprisonment. Under probation, a defendant does not serve prison time, but is instead released. This release is subject to conditions imposed by the court and is also subject to the supervision of a board of probation or parole. If a defendant violates the conditions of his or her parole, he or she may be arrested and brought to court. During this trial, it will be determined if there is probable cause to conclude that a violation took place. Following this hearing, the option of probation might be revoked or the defendant might be re-sentenced.

Parole and Parole Revocation Hearings

Parole is the release of an offender prior to the expiration of the offender’s term. This is determined by a court or board. In many jurisdictions, offenders “come up” for parole prior to the completion of their entire sentence. There is typically a parole hearing to determine if an offender can be released without being a danger to the community.

If it’s determined that an offender can be released, he or she will be under any conditions placed on him or her. If the offender violates any of these conditions, generally the offender may be arrested, incarcerated, and – unless waived – given a hearing on whether the alleged violation occurred. If so, the parole can be revoked

Compensation/Reparations

Compensation, also known as Reparations, is money paid by the government to victims of crimes. This payment is made in an effort to restore all or part of the financial losses the victim suffered as a result of the crime that was committed against him or her.

Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, being accused of a crime is a very serious matter, and should be handled accordingly. An experience criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on the best defense should you be accused of any number of crimes.

Any criminal charge could result in prison time, other serious penalties, and a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. The good news is that there is a defense to every charge or accusation. Contact our office in Los Angeles at 562-287-5333, at 562-287-5333 or by e-mail to discuss your case with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman