What to Expect at Trial
Nov. 2, 2023
If you have been charged with a crime in Florida, what happens next follows a similar pattern in all counties throughout the state. While not all criminal cases go to trial, it is always a good idea to educate yourself and know what to expect next in order to be able to make intelligent and informed decisions about your situation.
David Lee Sellers has more than 40 years of legal experience representing clients through all stages of the criminal justice process in Florida. With an office in Pensacola, Florida, David Lee Sellers, PA also serves Milton, Crestview, and Fort Walton Beach. If you are facing criminal charges, he can guide you during this tumultuous time.
The Need for an Attorney at Trial
Navigating the criminal justice process can be an overwhelming and intimidating experience, especially when there is no one by your side. Florida’s legal system is complex and requires a thorough understanding of the law and statutory procedures. Not every criminal case goes to trial, but you should be prepared for any scenario.
Each step in the process can impact the outcome of your case and affect your freedom. For this reason, you might want to consider hiring an attorney from the beginning. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal procedures as your case proceeds through each stage of the criminal justice process. Whether or not your case reaches trial, your attorney will advocate on your behalf in all legal proceedings to help you achieve the most favorable outcome possible.
What Happens Before the Trial?
Before the trial takes place, the defendant (the person facing criminal charges) will attend the arraignment. During the arraignment, the defendant will be informed of the formal charges they are facing and asked to enter a plea. How you plead at this stage will determine how your case proceeds. If you plead guilty or no contest, the next step will be sentencing. If you plead “not guilty,” your case will proceed to trial where the prosecution will be tasked with proving that you are guilty and you will have the opportunity to prove your innocence.
What to Expect at Your Trial
After the defendant enters a “not guilty” plea, their case moves on to a trial. Florida law recognizes two types of criminal trials: a trial by jury and a trial by judge. In the latter case, both sides – the defendant and the prosecution – present their arguments in front of the judge, who then makes the final decision about the case. In a trial by jury, the parties first go through a jury selection process and then present their arguments in front of a jury and a judge where the jurors decide the fate of the defendant.
In both types of trials, the prosecution must convince the judge or the jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. The criminal trial process in Florida generally follows the same pattern:
The parties make opening statements.
The prosecution’s case is presented.
The defense cross-examines the prosecution’s case.
The defense’s case is presented.
The prosecution cross-examines the defense’s case.
The parties make closing arguments.
The verdict is reached.
In a trial by jury, the jurors are asked to render their decisions after the parties make closing arguments. After taking the time to deliberate, the jurors announce their verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the case will proceed to sentencing, where the judge will be tasked with deciding the appropriate punishment based on Florida statutes. Depending on the offense, the penalties could include fines, prison/jail time, probation, community service, and others.
Here to Defend Your Rights
Being charged with a crime can be a frightening and confusing experience. In this situation, the best way to protect your freedom and your rights is to seek the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. David Lee Sellers, PA can help you throughout each step of the legal proceedings, including trial. Contact him today to set up a free consultation and discuss your particular situation.