Whether you are a defendant, witness, or some other party involved in a pending criminal trial, the entire process can seem foreign and overwhelming. This is obviously truer for the defendant than anyone else. If you have been charged with a crime, you likely feel as though you are in uncharted territory and, at the same time, you may know how much is at stake. The unknown combined with knowing how your life can change if that criminal charge becomes a criminal conviction can be crippling. Here, we will go over some of what happens in preparation for a criminal trial.
How to Prepare for a Criminal Trial
Most criminal cases end up settling prior to the need for a full-blown trial. This usually happens with the defendant reaching a plea deal with the prosecutor. With a plea deal, the defendant will often plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for leniency in penalties. Many defendants and prosecutors may favor settling a case before the trial to avoid the time and expense associated with a criminal trial. Additionally, many look to avoid a trial to avoid the uncertainty of the outcome.
With a trial, it is a formal legal proceeding involving the presentation of the facts of a case to a judge, if it is a bench trial, or a jury if it is a jury trial. The presentation of the facts is made in order for the judge or the jury to render a decision as to whether the defendant should be deemed guilty or not guilty of the charged offense.
Trial preparation largely involves a fact-finding mission to lay the groundwork for a firm and comprehensive understanding of the facts of the case as well as the defendant. A defense attorney will exhaust a variety of means to gather this information. This will include interviewing the client about his or her personal history as well as criminal history. Of course, the client will be asked about the crime. The attorney will interview to try and gain an understanding as to the timeline of the crime, as well as the client’s mental state, relationship with the victim, and role in the crime if any.
During discovery, the fact-finding mission dives even deeper. Meant to promote fairness in criminal and civil trials, discovery involves the defense receiving all the evidence that the prosecution possesses. This will include the charging document and police reports, as well as lab test results and witness statements. Receiving this evidence from the prosecution gives the defense team an invaluable opportunity to go over the relative strength of the prosecution’s case as well as look for any weakness or holes in the prosecution’s case.
The defense team is also likely to launch its own independent investigation in order to gather more evidence and work to verify what actually happened. This can include interviewing witnesses and checking out their credibility. The crime scene will most likely be visited. Any potential inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case will also be examined. Expert witnesses and consultants are also likely to be brought in for a meeting prior to trial. An expert witness may be a forensic scientist, doctor, mental health professional, or lab technician.
During and after the investigation into different facets of the circumstances of the case, the defense will work to interpret and analyze the evidence. A working theory of defense will evolve that sums up the client’s version of events and addresses any possible question of guilt the prosecution may raise at trial.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
Preparing for a criminal trial involves rigorous work. At Navarrete & Schwartz, our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys works tirelessly on behalf of our clients. We know what is at stake and we do not take this responsibility lightly. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.