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Criminal Defense

What to Expect From Your Criminal Trial Procedure: Is the Zimmerman Case Normal?

As we watch George Zimmerman on trial for the death Trayvon Martin death continue in Florida today, I am reminded of the how many moving parts there are in a criminal trial, the work of so many people, and the amount of time any trial requires from the prosecution and the defense.  All this time and expense is necessary to make sure an innocent defendant does not go to jail. Criminal law can be extremely complicated which is why as New Orleans Criminal Defense Lawyer, I would like to take a few momnets of your time to briefly discuss the criminal case procedure. By understanding what you can expect from your criminal trial, it can make the process a little less scary and also help you understand where all the money you are paying for the trial is going.

My Criminal Case is Going to Trial: What Should I Expect Now?

When you were arrested, you were probably brought before a judge very soon after your arrest. At this time, if you did not seek a New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorney, then the court probably appointed you one because our criminal justice system requires legal counsel for those accused of crimes. During your first appearance before the judge, your bond will be set and you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.  If you are unsure the right answer to the charge, you should answer “Not Guilty.” Before you case goes to trial, your defense lawyer will explain the difference between trial by judge and trial by jury, and help you decide which is most beneficial to your case.  This will depend on the circumstances and facts of your case, whether it was a misdemeanor (tried by judge) or a felony (tried by judge or jury). There may be one or more preliminary hearing to determine which and whether evidence can be used in the case and whether the case against you is strong enough to proceed to trial. In other words, the prosecution must have enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Motion Hearings

At this time, your defense lawyer and the prosecutors may make pre-trial motions. Remember, all criminal defendants have the right to a trial. Your attorney will attempt to defeat the prosecution’s case based on legal technicalities. This means that you may not ever see a trial because there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charge against you. Additionally, at this time, your criminal defense lawyer might be negotiating a plea to resolve your case with a plea bargain.

Jury Selection

Once you have decided to have a jury trial, there will be a process by which the court must decide who the 12 jurors will be. They will go through a question and answer process called a “voir dire.”


Right now, the Zimmerman trial is hearing witnesses from the prosecution, but both sides have right to compel witnesses to question regarding the case for the prosecution and for the defendant. Defense witnesses are often called about the character of the defendant and to challenge the prosecution witnesses’ testimony. Witnesses will be questioned by the side that called them to the witness stand and then cross-examined by the opposing counsel. Then there will be a third set of questions, if necessary, offered by the side that brought the witnesses to the stand to clear up any confusion in the testimony. It is extremely important to have witnesses available in order to build your defend you in a criminal case. Your Criminal Defense lawyer will help you determine who these witnesses should be, and will summons them to trial.

Criminal Case Procedures: Understanding Why You Can’t Do This Alone

The Need For a Criminal Defense Lawyer

The most important reason why hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer for your criminal case is because your attorney will know how to build a case for you as a defendant. This is the strategic part of a case and the more experienced your attorney, the better chances your case will be as successful as possible.

How Your Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Build a Case For You as a Defendant

If you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer, please feel free to call me for a free consultation. Once you decide to hire a defense lawyer, your lawyer will then:

1) Interview you. The information you provide to your lawyer will help assess the odds of conviction and also discuss likelihood of acquittal, plea bargains or other options. By law, any conversations you have with your attorney are confidential.  The lawyer you talk to can’t be called as a witness against you later.

2) Your attorney will then contact the prosecutor, which may or may not be the District Attorney’s office. They will discuss the case loosely, but your attorney is mainly gauging what the thoughts of the prosecution are on the case so no information will be exposed at this time.  Gauging the strength of the states case is an important step during plea bargaining.

3) Next, your defense attorney will conduct his or her own research. Criminal defense attorneys have resources that go beyond local law enforcement. Not always will the local law enforcement do their own research, but they can offer information if asked by the defense. This is the time when witnesses will be approached, questioned and determined whether they are good witnesses for trial. It is possible your attorney will also visit the crime scene, take photographs, interview friends, acquaintances from both sides, gather evidence and maybe even contact expert witnesses if more information is needed.

4) If the judge believes that the prosecution has a valid case beyond a reasonable doubt against you, then it is time to take all the facts, witnesses, and evidence and frame the facts into a story. Jury trials can be similar to competitive story-telling. Your lawyer will create a story that is compelling and more likely than the prosecution’s story / argument.

How Witnesses and Expert Witnesses Can Build Your Case

As we will see throughout the Zimmerman trial, a witness and even an expert witness can make or break your case.  Experts can be expensive and are often paid separately from the lawyer, but experts usually help to build your case. If you are involved in a shooting, and someone has charged you with using a specific firearm to shoot at a person, you may need to hire an expert witness to prove that a firearm could not be shot from the angle in which the prosecution is claiming you were at. That is just one example, but other types of expert witnesses might include:

  • Forensic Accountants
  • Document Examiners
  • Photographers and Photograph Analysts
  • Medical Expert Witnesses
  • Mental Health Expert Witnesses and Nurses with an Understanding of the Laws applicable to your Case.
  • Ex-cops who can debunk police procedures to the jury

There are many more types of experts available, and your criminal defense lawyer will determine what type of expert witness is required for your case and how to present their testimony at trial when necessary.

The Need for Additional Attorneys

At times, your attorney will need help depending on the size and complexity of you case. You may have hired your criminal lawyer on a flat rate and therefore, he or she is unable to gather all the resources, evidence and witnesses in a timely manner so he or she will hire an additional attorney to help make sure you are getting the best possible chance at a fair trial. Remember, you are the client and you have the right to a fair trial. Your legal counsel wants to win your case and will go the extra mile to do so. A paralegal might be hired to do research on old cases to determine whether there are any loophole opportunities in your case that may have played out in favor of the defense in a former case.  A private investigator can be hired to go out into the field to gather information from previously unknown witnesses.

The Cost of a Criminal Defense Case

We have discussed the various parts of a criminal trial and that includes at least one, if not more, appearances in court, many meetings with your lawyer, travel expenses, resources such as private investigators, paralegals, forensic experts, and photographers, witnesses and expert witnesses and possibly additional legal counsel. With all the different people involved, the time spent in court, and the expertise of some of the individuals, your criminal trial may cost a hefty sum. But, if this is the difference between life and death, freedom or imprisonment, or losing justice, then the cost of a criminal trial is invaluable. Do you have more questions about a criminal defense trial? If you have recently been arrested, please feel free to call me toll-free at (866) 459-4478 or (504) 264-9492 if you would like a free consultation. I am also available through e-mail so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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