Felony Process Continued|
Donte T Wyatt -
What your San Diego Criminal Attorney should tell you about your felony case.
The jury trial is the opportunity for the person charged to have a jury of their
peers decide if they are guilty of the crimes charged by the district attorney.
The trial begins with pretrial motions. These are motions filed by the district
attorney and or the criminal attorney regarding what evidence will be admitted during the trial. The court
ultimately decides what evidence will be admitted.
After pretrial motions the parties must select a jury. This process is referred to as
the voire dire process. This is the opportunity for the court, district attorney and the criminal attorney to
question prospective jurors. The parties and the court try to determine if the prospective jurors have any bias in
favor or against either party. Once the parties question the prospective jurors they can dismiss prospective jurors
for cause (bias) or pursuant to a preemptory challenge. A preemptory challenge is a challenge without cause to
dismiss a prospective juror. Each party is allocated a certain number of challenges depending on the nature of the
crime. Once the parties agree to a jury or exhaust all of their challenges the first twelve remaining jurors are
sworn in as jurors for that trial. The court may also select alternate jurors using a similar
Each party is allowed to give an opening statement that out lines their theory of the case. The district attorney
presents their opening statement first and the defense attorney can present their opening statement immediately
thereafter or reserve their statement until after the district attorney rests their case.
Presentation of Evidence
The district attorney presents their case first and after the district attorney rests the criminal attorney can
request that the court dismiss the charges at that point for insufficiency of the evidence. If the court refuses to
grant the criminal attorney motion to dismiss the charges the criminal attorney can present evidence on behalf of
his or her client or rest as well.
Closing arguments are the arguments of the district attorney and the criminal attorney as to why the jurors should
decide in favor of their party. The district attorney presents their closing arguments first followed by the
criminal attorney and the district attorney is allowed to present a rebuttal argument after the criminal
Jury Instructions and Deliberations
Either before or after the closing arguments the court will read to the jury the jury instructions. The jury
instructions are the applicable law that the jurors must apply in making their decision. The district attorney,
criminal attorney and the court can all proffer possible jury instructions but ultimately the court decides what
instructions are read to the jurors. Once the arguments and instructions are completed the jurors are left to
discuss the case among themselves and reach a verdict if they can. This process is referred to as deliberations. If
the jurors fail to reach a decision on all or some of the charges then the jury is referred to as a "hung jury" on
those charges. If the jury hangs on some or all of the charges the court will declare a mistrial and the prosecutor
can dismiss the charges or set a new trial date.
Grand Jury Indictment
A district attorney can file charges by filing a criminal complaint (the majority of state charges) or the district
attorney can seek a grand jury indictment. In order to obtain a grand jury indictment the district attorney must
present the evidence to the grand jury and the grand jury decides what and if any charges should be filed against
the accused. If the grand jury indicts a person the person is arraigned on the indictment and the case is set for
Readiness Conference (Felony Disposition Conference) and jury trial.
If a person is arraigned of a misdemeanor complaint the court will set a readiness conference and a jury trial.
(Preliminary Examinations are only conducted on felony cases)
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