How Often Do Criminal Cases Actually Go To Trial?

Very few criminal cases actually go to trial. Statistically, and this is very consistent across the board in both state and federal court, on average only 2 to 3 percent of cases go to trial.

What Are The Criteria That Determine Whether Or Not A Case Goes To Trial?

There are no criteria per se. However, the determination of whether or not a case goes to trial depends on the prosecutor’s ability to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes cases involve defenses, often referred to as affirmative defenses, which may be a reason to go to trial. For example, self-defense, whether it be a murder case or some other situation where one individual is injured by another, is an affirmative defense. There are many factors that determine whether or not a case should go to trial, including the strength of the prosecutor’s evidence, possible defenses, and whether the client will suffer any additional adverse consequences if they do go to trial and are found guilty.

What Actually Happens At A Criminal Trial?

In terms of the timeline of a criminal defense trial, the first part of any trial typically involves the arguing of pretrial motions. Both sides will file motions to either admit or exclude certain evidence, and those motions are argued before the trial begins. The next step in a trial is jury selection. As part of the jury selection process, both the prosecutor and defense attorney are allowed to question prospective witnesses; this process is known as voir dire. During voir dire, attorneys for the prosecution and defense will attempt to elicit any prejudices or biases the prospective jurors may have. As part of the jury selection process the attorneys will be able to make a certain number of challenges to exclude specific prospective jurors. For example, in the state court of California, each side is allotted 10 peremptory challenges, which means either attorney can excuse any prospective juror for any reason. At any point, either attorney can utilize what is called a challenge for cause. A challenge for cause is a situation where a prospective juror has made statements during the voir dire process that tend to indicate that they may not be able to be fair and impartial to one side or the other. At some point a jury panel is selected, which in California consists of 12 jurors, and the court will also, in most cases, impanel one or two alternate jurors in the event one of the 12 jurors is unable to finish the case for any reason. Next, the prosecution and defense give their opening statements. After opening statements the prosecution presents their case, which often involves witness testimony that may include members of law enforcement. After each prosecution witness testifies, the defense attorney has an opportunity to cross-examine that witness. Many times the prosecution will present expert witnesses, and the defense may cross-examine those experts as well.

After the prosecution has presented their case, the defense may present its own witnesses or its defense. A criminal defendant is under no obligation to take the witness stand. They retain their right to remain silent and the jury is informed that they are not allowed to use the exercising of this right against the defendant. The defense can simply choose to rest its case, present no evidence, and argue that the prosecution has failed to meet their burden of proof. After both sides have presented all their evidence each attorney then gives their closing argument and final remarks. In a criminal case, the prosecutor presents first, followed by the defense attorney. The prosecutor is also allowed to argue a second time; this is called a rebuttal closing. The defense attorney does not get a second opportunity to speak to the jury; the reason for this, theoretically, is due to the fact that the prosecution has the burden of proof.

In criminal cases, the vast majority of trials, 95% or more, are jury trials. Bench trials are rare in criminal cases. If someone is found guilty after a jury trial, often the punishment will be worse than if they had entered into a plea agreement earlier on. The premise is not one of punishment for taking his or her case to trial, but rather an award for an early admission of wrongdoing. In terms of attorney’s fees for trial, it is customary for attorneys to charge trial fees in addition to the initial retainer. This is because most cases do not go to trial; therefore, there is no need to pay the attorney trial fees, in most situations. In regard to cases that do go to trial, one benefit a client will have when working with our office is the fact that we have 26 years of trial experience in both state and federal courts. Our unique and involved approach with all of our cases, along with our effective presentation, yields great results time and time again.

For more information on Criminal Cases Going To Trial In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (619) 383-2931 today.

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