Being accused of a crime can be a confusing and frightening situation. After all, one's very future and freedom may be on the line. While it is important to have a criminal defense attorney by your side in such situations, it can also help to have a basic understanding of how the criminal trial process works in California.
First of all, prior to the commencement of the trial, a jury must be selected in a process known as "voir dire." To select a jury, the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney will each ask possible jurors questions. This is to ensure that the final jury is impartial and fair.
Once the trial starts, first the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney will each present an opening statement. After that, both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney are given the opportunity to present evidence bolstering their case. In addition, both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney can present witnesses in order to obtain testimony about what each of them knows about the case.
Once both sides are done presenting evidence and questioning witnesses, the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney will each present a closing argument. After that, it is up to the jury to determine whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. The jury can only issue a guilty verdict if the prosecution has proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant is guilty. If any reasonable doubt exists as to whether the defendant committed the crime, a guilty verdict cannot be made.
This is only a very brief overview of how the criminal trial process operates in California. Residents charged with a crime may want to consult their attorneys if they have any questions about how their trial will proceed.