Trial | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction

A trial is a formal examination of evidence before a judge in order to determine guilt.

A criminal trial is a legal proceeding in which a person accused of a crime is formally examined before a judge, and possibly a jury, in order to determine whether or not they are guilty of the charges brought against them. The trial is designed to provide a fair and impartial assessment of the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense and to determine whether the accused person should be punished for the alleged crime.

During a criminal trial, the prosecution must present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person committed the crime with which they are charged. The defense has the opportunity to present their own evidence and arguments in an attempt to refute the prosecution’s case and to convince the judge or jury that their client is not guilty.

The trial process typically involves a series of steps, beginning with the selection of a jury, if one is required. The prosecution and defense then make opening statements, outlining the evidence they will present and the arguments they will make during the trial. Witnesses are called to testify and may be cross-examined by the opposing side.

After all of the evidence has been presented, the prosecution and defense make closing arguments, summarizing their case and urging the judge or jury to render a verdict in their favor. The judge or jury then deliberates, considering the evidence and arguments presented during the trial, and decides whether the accused person is guilty or not guilty.

If the accused person is found guilty, the judge will then impose a sentence, which may include imprisonment, fines, probation, or other forms of punishment. If the accused person is found not guilty, they are acquitted of the charges and released.

Criminal trials play a critical role in the criminal justice system by ensuring that accused persons receive a fair and impartial assessment of their guilt or innocence. They also serve as a check on the power of the government to prosecute individuals and help to ensure that justice is served in a manner that is consistent with the principles of due process and the rule of law.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2023


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