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Breaking down the three main stages of a criminal case

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2022 | General Criminal Defense

Looking at your criminal case in its totality can quickly become overwhelming. At first glance, the prosecution’s case may seem insurmountable, and your future may feel like it is in jeopardy.

However, by educating yourself about the major phases of a criminal case, you and your attorney can break the situation into more easily tackled parts. This can reduce stress and help you focus your line of attack during the development of your criminal defense. So, what are the main parts of a criminal case? Let’s look at them here.

The investigatory stage

Just as law enforcement is going to investigate the facts of your case to determine if criminal charges are warranted, you should investigate the circumstances of your case to identify areas of opportunity. The more information you have the better. That is why in most instances you are going to want to engage in thorough discovery.

What is discovery? It is the process of learning what the other side knows and finding out about other pieces of information that may be key to your case. Discovery can include issuing subpoenas for pertinent documents, such as phone and medical records, or subpoenaing witnesses for depositions. Depositions are where you take sworn testimony from witnesses prior to trial.

By gathering information during the investigatory stage, you learn what facts are in play and how to utilize them to your advantage. This brings us to the next stage of your criminal case.

The motion stage

Before your case heads to trial, your attorney should file motions in hope of suppressing evidence or having your case dismissed. When it comes to suppression, look to see if evidence was illegally gathered, such as when it is seized during an illegal traffic stop.

If that happened in your case, you and your attorney can draft a motion that lays out the facts and how the law disallows the prosecution from using tainted evidence against you.

There are a number of ways to seek dismissal of the charges that have been levied against you. You might be able to argue that there is insufficient evidence to support a showing of probable cause or that some type of law enforcement or prosecutorial misconduct should bar the charges from moving forward.

The trial stage

If you don’t resolve your case one way or the other, you are heading to trial. There are always risks associated with going to trial, so you will want to be as prepared as possible before heading into court. Ultimately, the decision whether to go to trial is yours, but you will want to be sure to assess:

  • The strength of the prosecution’s witnesses
  • The strength of your witnesses
  • The credibility of all witnesses
  • The makeup of the jury
  • Any evidentiary arguments you have at hand
  • Any other risk factors that may seem pertinent

An attorney who is experienced in jury trials will be able to help you craft your strategy here, so make sure that you are staying in close contact with them to better ensure that you can achieve the outcome that you deserve.

Protect your rights and your interests as fully as possible

A criminal case that is improperly handled at any phase can leave you at risk of conviction and incarceration. That is why you want a diligent attorney on your side who can help you navigate the intricacies of your case. If that sounds like something that you could benefit from, consider reaching out to an attorney who you think is a good fit for you and your case.