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Male Public Defender Presenting Case

What to Expect at Trial

Strand Law Offices, LLC Sept. 13, 2023

A criminal prosecution is a time of great anxiety if you are the defendant being accused of breaking the law, whether it be something seemingly minor such as a DUI, petty theft, or something more serious such as assault or even homicide. Your future is literally at stake.

Keep this in mind: your best friend in a criminal prosecution is your defense attorney – along with the exercise of your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

If you are facing an investigation or a criminal charge in or around West Chester, Pennsylvania, contact our criminal defense legal team at the Strand Law Offices, LLC. We have more than two decades of experience in defending the rights of clients facing trial for alleged crimes of all manner. 

We will use our knowledge and experience to represent you and fight for the best possible outcome. We also proudly serve clients in Lancaster County and surrounding counties throughout Pennsylvania. 

Understanding the Criminal Justice Process 

Everything begins with an arrest and you being hauled in for questioning. When authorities conduct an interrogation, they must inform you of your Miranda Rights. One part of this is the right to remain silent. The Miranda warning will inform you that “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Take those words to heart, and don’t answer any questions until you’ve exercised the next part of the Miranda warning, which is that you have a right to have legal counsel present. Obtain the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney before answering any questions other than confirming your identity. Be pleasant in your responses, but exercise your right to remain silent. Don’t give authorities any added evidence they can use against you.

If you are charged with a crime, you will first go through a preliminary arraignment before a Magisterial District Judge. At this hearing, the judge will set bail, or if you are not believed to be a flight risk or a danger to others, you may be set free on your own recognizance. 

Otherwise, you will have to come up with money for the bail or obtain a bond from a bail bond company. If you’re deemed too great of a flight risk or a danger to others, you may be kept in jail awaiting trial. It is important to have your defense attorney present with you at the arraignment. Your attorney can argue for low or no bail.

The next step is the preliminary hearing, at which the prosecution will press its case for a trial, and the District Judge will determine if the evidence warrants a trial. The prosecution may call witnesses to testify and provide other evidence. At this stage, your defense attorney can present motions to dismiss or have the charges reduced. They can also negotiate for a plea bargain with prosecutors to avoid a trial altogether. 

What Happens if the Charges Result in a Trial 

If it’s a jury trial – there are also “bench trials” with only a judge and no jury – the trial process begins with both the prosecution and defense questioning the jury pool. The goal is to figure out those who may be prejudiced against either the prosecution or the defense or who may have preconceived notions about the defendant.

Once the jury has been selected, the prosecution will make an opening statement, followed by the defense with their opening statement. The prosecutors will then present their evidence and call their witnesses to testify. Your defense attorney will cross-examine the witnesses and also challenge the relevance or authenticity of any other evidence presented.

Your defense attorney will get to present your case for acquittal by presenting evidence and calling witnesses to help establish your innocence. The prosecution will have a chance to cross-examine and challenge all evidence. 

When both sides have concluded their presentations, there will be closing arguments before the judge instructs the jury on applicable legal standards that they must observe in judging the evidence presented. The jury then deliberates. 

Any verdict must be unanimous. If the jurors cannot agree on a verdict, the judge can declare a “hung jury.” A retrial may be scheduled, or prosecutors may drop the case. 

Put Experience in Your Corner 

Remember, your most important ally is an experienced criminal defense attorney, who can argue on your behalf for low or no bail, to have the charges reduced or dropped, or to arrange a plea bargain, avoiding trial. If matters end up in court, your attorney can cross-examine and challenge the prosecutors’ case. 

If you’re facing a criminal charge in or around West Chester, Pennsylvania, contact us at the Strand Law Offices, LLC, immediately. Our criminal defense team will work with you collaboratively to develop the optimal strategy aimed at securing the best result possible.