Misconceptions Regarding Criminal Trials in Fort Worth
Many clients are confused about what a trial is, and what actually happens. Some people are misguided by what they see on TV. Some people are misguided by their perception of what happens in a civil trial as opposed to a criminal trial. Sometimes, we need to help the client understand that in a criminal case that we as the defense, do not have anything to prove, but the government has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The government has to bring witnesses, who can help prove their case. Sometimes, we have to help the client to understand that they do not have to testify and that they have the right to remain silent.
Sometimes, it is a situation where it is one’s word against another’s, and the client’s testimony can be just enough to cause reasonable doubt for a jury. Sometimes, clients do not understand the high burden of proof that the government has before a person can be convicted. The government has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard under the law. It is much different from a civil case, where the people are suing for damages or money, and the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence in which either side has more evidence. Therefore, we have to make sure that the client understands that the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a much higher burden.
Sometimes, we have to make the client understand that while the government may have evidence, we can bring witnesses to refute their evidence. While the government may have evidence that the person had a blood test of say .0.10 alcohol concentration, that blood test is not presumed accurate in front of a jury. We may be able to show that the blood test is not accurate, and it does not show that the person was over the legal limit at the time of actually driving. Therefore, there are many things about criminal jury trials that clients do not understand, and they need the help of an expert attorney to guide them through this process.
Timeline of the Criminal Process in Fort Worth
The timeline goes like this. When a client hires us, we represent the client. The case would be set for a pretrial docket where the judge may consider pretrial motions, or ruling on motions that we may present to compel the prosecution, and provide certain evidence to us, or a court hearing where the judge decides whether the police have violated the law in some way. These may be the types of issues heard at a pretrial docket, or a court appearance prior to the actual criminal jury trial. Then when it is time, and any of these pretrial issues have been resolved, the date is set for a jury trial. The court summons a sufficient number of prospective jurors. In a felony case, they may bring forty potential jurors to court, and the first part of the trial is jury selection. This is where both sides get to talk to the potential jurors, and exercise their right to strike a potential juror. The remaining twelve jurors in a felony case or six jurors in a misdemeanor case are the actual jury.
The judge has the prosecution bring in their witnesses to prove the case if they can, and then of course the defense has the opportunity to put on their witnesses. After all the witnesses have appeared for both sides, we get to argue the case in front of the jury, and the jury makes the decision. However, the jury trial may happen several months, or even a year after the case has started, because of the time it takes to have pretrial hearings, and the court’s backlog. Therefore, a jury trial may not happen right away. Several steps may happen before the case actually gets to a jury trial.
Do Police Or Other Law Enforcement Officers Ever Fail To Show Up At A Trial?
Sometimes, the prosecution’s witnesses are not available, or they cannot find them, or they fail to show, and that can be favorable to the defense. The prosecution may not be able to prove their case at that point. What some clients do not understand is there may be court appearances, such as pretrial court appearances before the case comes up for trial at which those witnesses do not need to appear. Some clients have the misconception that at every court appearance, all the prosecution and the government’s witnesses have to appear. They think that the police officer, or that witness is not going to appear in court next week, and if they do not show, we win. The prosecution has to bring their witnesses to the actual trial, when these are pretrial court appearances there is no necessity that the prosecution bring witnesses at this time.
In fact, sometimes they have not even found them yet, or the prosecution has not even talked to these witnesses yet, but yes they do have to be able to bring the necessary witnesses when the case comes up for trial. If those witnesses are not available, or do not appear for trial, then that can cause the case to be dismissed, or cause us to win.