If you need to go to court for a trial, either due to a criminal offense or a civil or business dispute, there can be a great deal of questions on the horizon that you might not have the answer for. To avoid feeling caught up in a storm of litigation, legalese, and laws, you should familiarize yourself with some of the most important and commonplace aspects of a courtroom trial now. In doing so, you may be able to increase your chances of a beneficial outcome when it is time for the judge or jury to make a decision in regards to your case.
What is a Bench Trial?
Trials are often toted as the main fact-finding portion of any case. In criminal trials, the facts need to be laid out to prove that someone is guilty of a crime; in civil or business disputes, the facts try to prove liability for a potential wrongdoing. Who determines which facts are genuine and useful and which should be dismissed depends on the dispute. In many court trials, only a judge will act as the "fact-finder" and come to a decision on their own. This is known as a bench trial.
What is a Jury Trial?
The usual idea of a trial that comes into peoples' heads when they hear the word involves 12 people sitting off to one side of a courtroom, analyzing and weighing evidence and arguments. Such a trial is known as a jury trial, and a group of somewhat randomly selected people are called upon to be the "fact-finders" for the case. Jury trials are generally reserved for criminal cases involving a heinous or controversial crime, or a civil or business dispute case involving a considerable amount of compensation or responsibilities.
Who Else Will Be There? What Else Will Happen?
In a typical courtroom trial setting, you can expect to see your opposition and their lawyer. Even when your dispute is centered on a relatively small amount of money, your opposition – whether they be the defendant or the plaintiff – will probably have retained an attorney to help them argue their side of the story. For this reason, you should hire a lawyer of your own.
The breakdown of events of an average trial includes:
- Opening statements: Both sides address the judge or jury briefly to explain what they are going to try to prove or disprove.
- Presentation of evidence: One side will bring up evidence and call upon witnesses to help them prove their argument.
- Cross-examination: After one side uses evidence, their opposition is given a chance to challenge, or cross-examine, it.
- Closing statements: If both sides run out of evidence they wish to submit and find no more reason to conduct a cross-examination, they will make their closing or final statements to the judge or jury, explaining why they are right and their opposition is wrong.
- Deliberation and conclusion: In a jury trial, the jury will deliberate and discuss the trial privately; deliberation can take a few minutes or several days. The verdict they reach is passed to the judge for ruling. In a bench trial, there is no deliberation, other than a judge's own thought processes.
It is important to remember that an attorney is not only there to represent you during your trial. They should actually be there from start to finish, day one to day whichever, and help you prepare your case. If you know that you will need to go to trial soon, or if you want to file a lawsuit that is likely to result in a trial, you can contact our Naples attorneys at the Law Office of Conrad Willkomm, P.A. We have helped thousands of clients throughout our years of practice in all manners of legal issues, from estate planning and probate to foreclosure defense and personal injury claims. Go ahead and call us at 239.262.5303 and ask for a free case evaluation to begin.