What Happens in a Trial?

Raleigh Trial Lawyer

A trial has five main parts. Pre-trial motions are motions heard by the trial judge dealing with issues outside the presence of the jury. These trials may be dispositive of the case, and may end up resolving the case without the need for a full trial.

First, jury selection or voir dire is the second part of a trial. A pool of prospective jurors is brought into the courtroom. The judge reads some instructions. Lawyers for each side question various potential jurors. Some jurors are excused by the judge at the lawyers’ request. After twelve are selected, and either one or more alternates chosen, the jury is empaneled to hear the case.

Second, open arguments are delivered by the prosecutor and the defense lawyer. These are not evidence, but forecasts of what the lawyers expect will be the competent evidence in the case.

Third, he evidence phase of the trial follows. Witnesses are called, sworn in, and questioned by the lawyers. Objections may be made to questions that lawyers believe are improper. The judge periodically will rule on these objections, sometimes after asking that jurors be removed from the courtroom.

The state puts on its evidence first, followed by the Defense. The defense is not required to put on any evidence. The state always has the burden to prove every element of the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt – that is, to fully satisfy and entirely convince each juror that it has proved that element.

In a simple DWI case: Did the person drive a car? Was the car driven on a road or highway? And was the person impaired?

At various times, the defense will make a motion to dismiss. If the judge denies the motion, then the case continues on.

Fourth, after resting, lawyers for each side make closing arguments, which, again, are not evidence, but are each lawyer’s attempts to persuade the jury about how it should view the evidence that has been presented.

Fifth, the jury deliberates until a verdict has been reached. If the verdict is not guilty, then the person is found not guilty. If the verdict is guilty, the judge usually sentences immediately following the trial.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.