Very few criminal cases will actually go to trial. Most cases result in a plea agreement with the prosecutor, where the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence or lesser charges. However, you can and should fight the charges against you all the way to trial if the prosecutor does not have the evidence to prove your guilt. Here is what is in store for you if your Wisconsin criminal case goes to trial.
The Prosecutor Will Try to Prove Your Guilt
The prosecutor’s main objective at a criminal trial is to use evidence and witnesses to prove that your conduct meets each element of the charged crime. The criminal trial process begins before the actual trial. The judge will hold a final status conference, where they will set the ground rules for the trial and decide pre-trial motions (such as whether to suppress evidence that may be used against you on various grounds).
Depending on the case, you can have a bench trial in front of a judge, or the jury can decide the matter. If you are having a jury trial, the first step of the trial is jury selection. Both your attorney and the prosecutor will get to question potential jurors during a process called voir dire. The attorneys are seeking to determine whether the juror has the capacity to be objective and whether they have any preconceived notions about the case. The parties may object to a juror for cause, and they may even object to a limited number of jurors for no reason whatsoever.
Once the jury is seated, the case will begin with each attorney making an opening statement. The lawyers will state their theory of the case and what they intend to prove. Your attorney may explain your defense and why the prosecutor will be unable to prove their case against you. Everything is about making an impression on the jury.
Presentation of Witnesses and Evidence
At that point, the prosecution will be the first party to begin to present its case. They will call a series of witnesses to the stand. The brief and climactic scenes of lawyers questioning witnesses that you see on television do not happen in criminal cases. Witnesses can be on the stand for hours, where prosecutors ask a long series of questions. They are trying to establish the foundation of the testimony and that certain facts happened.
Your lawyer will be paying close attention to the questions asked of the witnesses. There are strict rules of evidence that prohibit certain questions from being asked and facts from being introduced. For example, the witness must have direct knowledge of what they are testifying about, and they cannot say what someone else told them because it is hearsay. Your lawyer will object to any improper question, and the judge can prohibit the prosecutor from asking the question or directing them to restate it.
Cross-Examination of Witnesses
Once the prosecution finishes with each individual witness, your attorney will have the chance to cross-examine them. There may be an area where the witness’ testimony can damage your defense that your lawyer needs to address. Again, you can count on steady and sustained questions during cross-examination instead of one climactic “gotcha” moment.
The Defense’s Case
Once the prosecution finishes calling their witnesses, they will rest their case. At that point, your lawyer will start to present your case. The defendant always gets to go last, so they can see what the prosecutor may have successfully proven and any weaknesses in the case.
Your lawyer will then call a number of witnesses on your behalf. They may begin with fact witnesses, who can establish facts that can help your own defense or that negate the prosecutor’s proof of the individual elements of a crime. Your lawyer can also call witnesses who can testify about your character.
You may or may not be called to testify as a witness in your own defense. Everything depends on your lawyer’s assessment of the case after weighing the risks and benefits of your testimony. If the prosecutor has not put on a strong case, your lawyer may decide that your testimony is not necessary. You can expect your attorney to prepare you extensively for trial. If you testify, you will be subject to cross-examination by the prosecutor, and it can be very difficult.
Closing Statements and Jury Deliberations
Once your lawyer has rested your case on behalf of the defense, each party will give a closing statement to the jury. Again, instead of the emotional appeals that you see on television, you can expect a detailed discussion of what each side has or has not proven. Once final statements are given, the judge will give the jury instructions about what they need to consider. The jury will then retire to begin deliberations about the case. Once the jury has concluded deliberations, they will take a vote on each of the charges against you. The vote will need to be unanimous for you to be convicted in a felony case (a majority vote will suffice for a misdemeanor). If there is not a unanimous vote, they will keep voting until they reach unanimity or decide that it is not possible. If the jury has decided to convict you of the charges, you may be immediately taken into custody or allowed to remain free on bail pending sentencing.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a crime, there is always a possibility that your case can go to trial. You need an attorney who knows how to litigate effectively in the courtroom. In other words, you need a lawyer who can deliver results. That is exactly what the attorneys do at Hogan Eickhoff. The first step is to call us to discuss your case. You can contact us online or call us today at (920) 450-9800 to schedule your free consultation.