The verdict is the final step in criminal trial proceedings. This is the time that the judge or jury will announce their decision on the defendant's guilt or innocence. This decision will be made based on physical evidence and witness testimony presented during the trial, in conjunction with jury instructions or a judge's knowledge of the law as it applies to the charges and evidence. A verdict may go one of two ways: guilty or not guilty.
If the judge or jury decides that the defendant is not guilty, this is called an acquittal. The defendant will be released, though the arrest and acquittal will remain on his or her record. After a not guilty verdict, the defendant cannot be tried again for the same crime, as this is considered "double jeopardy" and a violation of his or her rights. It is important to remember, however, that a not guilty verdict is not the same as a finding of innocence. If a jury determines that a defendant is not guilty, this means that they were not convinced of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If a defendant wishes to clear the arrest from his or her record, factual innocence must be proven at a hearing in front of a judge. This can be far more difficult than building reasonable doubt in jurors' minds.
If a defendant is found guilty, this means that the judge or jury were convinced of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant may be found guilty of certain aspects of his or her charges or of all charges, if the defendant faced multiple charges or counts. Based on the specific crimes of which the defendant was found guilty, a sentencing hearing will then be held to determine what penalties may be enforced.
In California, both the defense and the prosecution have the opportunity to be heard at the sentencing hearing. The defense may present a case meant to mitigate, or minimize, the penalties that may be enforced against the defendant. The prosecution may present a case meant to increase the penalties. A judge will then determine the defendant's sentence based off the severity of the crime, the number of counts, the cases presented by the defense and prosecution and any other applicable factors.
Having an attorney to represent your interests at your sentencing hearing is another essential part of your case. By presenting evidence and information that shows why your sentence should be minimized, your attorney may be able to lessen (or even eliminate) your time behind bars, fines, term of probation and other potential penalties.
Post-Trial Help from a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer
Even if your trial has ended and a verdict was reached, this does not necessarily mean that this is the end of the line for your case. If you were found guilty, your lawyer can consider filing an appeal. Trial errors and rights violations may grant an opportunity to appeal the guilty verdict, resulting in a retrial, reversal of the jury's original decision or reduced sentence. Even if you were acquitted, your lawyer can discuss the possibility of clearing the arrest from your record by proving your factual innocence. Depending on your needs and goals, your lawyer can help you take additional steps to protect your future and freedom.
At Lessem & Newstat, we offer criminal defense counsel before, during and after criminal trial proceedings in Southern California. If you would like to find out how we can help you at any stage of your criminal case, please call for a confidential case review. Our experience and resources can help you avoid the serious consequences of an arrest, charges or conviction.