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What happens during a trial and sentencing?

People receiving criminal charges might have to face a jury of their peers. This is a stressful situation because you don't know the outcome, but you do realize that your life is hanging in the balance.

While knowing what to expect might not take all the stress out of the equation, it can help you to prepare. Remember, you must work on your defense prior to the date of your trial. Using a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants defense is likely going to work against you in a federal case. The Assistant United States Attorney has vast resources to plan their side of the case, so consider this when you work on your side. 

What happens during a trial?

At the start of the trial, both sides will go through the jury selection process. This is when jurors are vetted to determine which ones will sit through the trial and determine whether the evidence shows that you are guilty or not guilty.

Once the trial begins, the prosecution will present its side of the matter and then you will be able to present yours. During this process, both sides can call witnesses. The side that calls them will examine, or question, a witness. The other side will then be able to cross-examine, or challenge, the witness. The jury will begin to deliberate once the closing arguments are finished from each side. When it reaches a decision, that will be announced in court.

How long will a trial last?

The exact amount of time a trial lasts depends on the case. Typically, these last two to three days; however, it is possible that it will last much longer if there is a lot of evidence or many witnesses that must be called. The amount of time it takes the jury to deliberate also determines how long the trial lasts.

What happens when the trial ends?

The trial ends when the jury's verdict is announced in court. If the defendant is found guilty, the court will determine whether that person needs to be taken into custody immediately or if they can remain in society until the sentencing hearing. That hearing takes place around 90 days after the verdict is read if the person is allowed to remain free or 75 days after the verdict if the person is taken into custody.

The federal criminal justice system is a bit different from others. If you have any questions or concerns, you should address them before your case makes it to trial.

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