Most people have an idea in their minds of how a criminal trial works. This image is likely heavily influenced by courtroom TV dramas such as Law & Order. While shows like these can be hugely entertaining, they aren’t always legally accurate. We have previously talked about whether or not a case can go to trial without evidence. In this article we will explore the trial process and discuss when evidence can and cannot be introduced in court.
The Trial Process
Criminal trials are complex and follow a very specific process. Before trial even begins, there are a number of steps that must be completed including:
- Jury selection or “voire dire” is when the judge and attorneys on the case ask questions of those called for jury duty, and select the jury that will hear the case.
- Evidence hearings. This is where the prosecution and defense bring up evidence that they intend to use during trial. They eventually agree on what will be used and what evidence will be excluded.
- Opening statements. These are given by both the defense and prosecution as a way of outlining each side of the case.
From there, the trial moves to arguments, witness testimony, and more. Generally, the prosecution will disclose any evidence that they intend to use during trial at the evidence hearing. But what if new evidence is discovered in the time between the evidence hearing and the trial? Can that evidence be used at trial?
No Simple Answer
As with most legal questions, if the answer were a simple yes or no, law school would not be so long and complicated. A general answer is that if evidence was not disclosed prior to the trial, it is unlikely that it would be let in. However, that being said, the answer is dependent upon:
- The evidence itself
- How important it is to the trial
- When it was received by the State
- The specific facts of the case
For example, if the evidence in question was being offered in rebuttal, it would stand a better chance of being let in for consideration.
Whether or not evidence can be presented in the midst of a trial is heavily dependent on the unique circumstances of each case. This grey area is one of the many good reasons to consult a criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges.