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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:58 pm
What to Expect if Your Long Island Criminal Case Goes to Trial
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Long Island, New York, you may be wondering what happens if your case goes to trial. Going to trial can be an intimidating and stressful experience. This article will walk you through the basic process so you know what to expect.
The First Steps
After you’ve been arrested and charged, the first step is your arraignment. This is when you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, then your case proceeds towards a trial. Your defense attorney will start preparing your case by filing motions, investigating the evidence, interviewing witnesses, hiring experts, etc. This process can take many months as both sides build their cases.
The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Your attorney’s job is to poke holes in their case and raise doubt. Common defense strategies involve attacking the credibility of witnesses, questioning the chain of custody of evidence, using expert witnesses, and more. For example, in 2021 a judge dismissed murder charges due to issues with a jailhouse informant’s credibility (see this Times Union article).
The Trial Process
If your case isn’t dismissed or resolved through a plea bargain, it will eventually go to trial. Trials in New York generally happen before a judge, not a jury. The prosecution presents their case first. The police officers involved will testify about the investigation and evidence collected. Other witnesses may testify to what they saw or know. Expert witnesses might be brought in to analyze forensic evidence.
Your defense attorney will get to cross-examine each witness, questioning their credibility or the quality of their testimony. Once the prosecution rests, your attorney presents your defense case. This may involve putting you or other witnesses on the stand. Or it may focus on poking more holes in the prosecution’s version of events.
After both sides present their cases, the judge decides the verdict. If you’re found “guilty” then you move to sentencing where punishments like jail time are determined. If found “not guilty” then you go free.
What About a Jury Trial?
Most NY criminal trials happen before a judge, but you can request a jury trial for more serious felony charges. Jury trials follow a similar process but a group of citizens listen to the evidence and decide guilt or innocence.
Jury trials take more time and money compared to bench trials. But some attorneys believe everyday citizens may be more sympathetic or willing to give defendants the benefit of the doubt. Consult with your lawyer about whether to request a jury.
How Long Do Trials Take?
The length of a criminal trial can vary drastically depending on the charges and complexity of the case. A simple misdemeanor case may only take a day or two of testimony. More serious or complex trials can drag on for weeks or months. One advantage of bench trials is they tend to move faster than jury trials.
Prepare for a Marathon, Not a Sprint
The bottom line is that if your case goes to trial you should prepare for a lengthy legal marathon. The pretrial process takes many months and then the trial itself can last weeks or longer. You’ll need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side who can anticipate issues, find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and clearly present your defense.
Going to trial is always risky and emotionally draining. Many defendants end up taking plea bargains to avoid the uncertainty of trial. But sometimes going the distance is your best chance at justice or outright acquittal. Understand the process, weigh your options carefully, and listen to your attorney’s advice on strategy. With smart preparation and persistence, even difficult trials can end in not guilty verdicts