The evidence and arguments of a criminal case can be presented before a judge, or a jury. Most jurisdictions leave the choice up to the defense, but in some the prosecution is allowed to call for a jury trial as well. The U.S. Constitution states that every defendant is entitled to have a jury trial, though there are stipulations to the law.
The Supreme Court has ruled that only a “serious crime” can demand a trial by jury. The court defines a serious crime as one that if convicted can be punishable by a term of at least six months in prison.
The first phase of a jury trial is to select the panel members. This is done through the process of “voir dire.” The prosecutor, the defense attorney and the judge will question each prospective jury member, looking for any indication of prejudice or any reason why he or she may not be able to serve throughout the entire process of the trial. Some trials go on for weeks or even months so if there’s any medical condition or life circumstance that would make serving on the jury a burden, the court wants to be made aware of it before a potential juror is selected.
If during voir dire one of the attorneys discovers a legitimate cause to suspect that a possible juror may have a preconceived judgement about the guilt or innocence of the accused, that attorney has the right to dismiss that juror. There is no limit to the number of prospective jurors an attorney may reject with cause. In addition, attorneys for both sides are allowed certain peremptory challenges, which means that they can dismiss a juror without having to say why.
Before the trial gets underway both the defense and the prosecution will present their evidence to the court for approval. Attorneys will make motions that particular pieces of evidence be allowed to be presented during the course of the trial. The judge will either accept the evidence or deny it.
If you have been accused of a criminal offense, the sooner you are represented by counsel, the better. Call on the experience of Parker Lawyers @ 303-841-9525.