Criminal Procedure FAQs
Have legal questions about criminal procedures? William Weinberg is here to provide clarity and guidance. If you need more detailed information or legal advice, don't hesitate to reach out for a Free Consultation at (949) 474-8008.
- What's the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?
- What Is the "Presumption of Innocence"?
- How Can I Determine if I'm Guilty of a Crime as Defined by a Criminal Statute?
- What Proof Standard Is Used in Criminal Trials To Establish Guilt?
- Am I Entitled to a Jury Trial if I'm Accused of a Crime?
- Why Might a Defendant Choose To Not Testify, Even if Innocent?
- What Happens if a Defendant Is Judged "Incompetent To Stand Trial"?
Crimes are categorized into two main types: felonies and misdemeanors. The classification centers around the severity of punishment. Felonies are serious crimes, often punishable by imprisonment for longer than a year, while misdemeanors carry penalties of a year or less. Certain crimes fall into a gray area known as "wobblers," which prosecutors can charge either way. Infractions, such as traffic violations, typically result in fines and don't constitute criminal offenses. On occasion, misdemeanors may also be punishable solely by a fine.
Every individual accused of a crime holds the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This fundamental legal principle places the burden on the prosecution to establish guilt, allowing the accused to remain silent if they choose. The high standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" ensures that the risk of convicting an innocent person is greatly minimized.
Criminal statutes specify crimes through action and intent, known as "elements." To secure a conviction, the prosecution must demonstrate each element: the act itself and the requisite intent at the time. Breaking down the statute into individual elements can help you understand the components of the alleged crime.
The "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is the highest in the legal system, far exceeding the "preponderance of the evidence" required in civil cases. The significant burden is on the prosecution to remove any reasonable doubt from the minds of the judge or jurors regarding the defendant's guilt. It's not uncommon for defense strategies to hinge on highlighting and maintaining this doubt.
The U.S. Constitution grants a right to trial by jury for most criminal offenses, excluding petty crimes with less than six months of potential sentencing. The size and unanimity requirements for juries can vary by state and charge severity, with some states allowing non-unanimous verdicts under specific conditions.
A defendant might opt to refrain from testifying for several strategic reasons, including the risk of exposing prior convictions or unfavorable information, weak public speaking skills, or simply because their truth may not resonate well with the jury. The 5th Amendment protects this choice, ensuring that jurors do not interpret such silence as an indication of guilt.
If a defendant is deemed incapable of understanding the trial process or assisting in their defense due to a mental disorder, the trial will be postponed. Incompetent defendants are typically placed in mental institutions until they regain the competency to stand trial.
For further information or personalized legal advice, the skilled team at William Weinberg stands ready to assist you. We provide a Free Consultation to address your unique situation. Call us today at (949) 474-8008.