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What Happens During a Criminal Trial in Alabama?

Before a criminal trial takes place in Alabama, a series of events must first take place. If you have never been charged with a crime, this can be a frightening time that leaves you full of questions.

First, you will be investigated. Whether the local sheriff or another state agency, investigations generally include issuing a search warrant, interviewing witnesses, and bringing you in for questioning.

This is an excellent time to hire an Alabama criminal defense attorney because anything you say can and will be used against you. Jason Darley will help you build a defense case as soon as you suspect you are being targeted.

A successful investigation will result in probable cause that you committed the crime and can lead to your arrest.

You may know you committed a crime but feel you have extenuating circumstances. You can enter your plea during an arraignment before the judge, who will present you with the formal charges you are facing.

Pleading guilty means there will be no trial, but you will go directly to sentencing before the judge. Pleading not guilty means you and your attorney must prepare for a trial.

The court will appoint an attorney if you cannot afford an attorney. In this country, everyone is entitled to an attorney when they enter court proceedings.  

In the case of a felony, you must request a preliminary hearing before a judge within 30 days. Your case may be dismissed during the preliminary hearing if there is insufficient evidence to move forward. If it is not dismissed, the evidence gathered by both sides must be shared.

Your attorney may file another pretrial motion to suppress specific evidence that the other side plans to present at court.

For example, if you have had another felony conviction unrelated to this offense, your attorney may not want the jury to hear about that and will file a motion to suppress.

During the pretrial hearing phase, your criminal defense attorney may negotiate with the prosecutor to work out a plea bargain, meaning you agreed to plead guilty, probably to a lesser charge, to make the trial go away. You will then face the sentence that goes with the lesser offense.

The Judge and Jury

In preparation for a jury trial, both sides must agree on those selected for the jury from a prospective pool of potential jurors. For various reasons, each side can disqualify a potential juror they do not like.

This process is called “voir dire,” and jurors can be disqualified for several reasons – they have a family member already convicted of a similar crime, they were a victim of the same crime, or they cannot put their attention to jury duties because of commitments at home or the workplace. Eventually, both sides will agree on a pool of jurors.

The courts remain backed up, so do not expect a jury trial in a week or two like you see on television. 

Opening Arguments

Eventually, when you do get to trial, both sides get a chance to deliver opening arguments. This will alert the jury to what the evidence will show.

At the end of the trial, before they deliberate, the judge will give instructions on what they are to consider and what jurors should ignore. Sometimes jurors ask questions during deliberations or want to see evidence a second time. After a reasonable time, most juries come to a unanimous conclusion, but when they don’t, the judge may declare a mistrial.

At that point, the prosecution has the option to refile the case to be heard before a new jury. If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced by the judge. Your lawyer will argue for a minimal sentence.

Your Experienced Alabama Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Darley will be by your side during the entire investigation process, facing charges, negotiating with the other side, trial, and an appeal if you are found guilty. Mr. Darley has focused his entire legal practice on fighting aggressively for those charged with municipal and criminal charges.

Just because you face a criminal charge does not mean you are guilty or your case should go to trial. Mr. Darley will aggressively fight for your rights during this stressful time. Call his Mobile office at (251) 441-7772, so he can explore ways to uphold your innocence.    

Sources:

Alabama Judicial System
https://judicial.alabama.gov/library/criminalprocedure

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