What Happens at a Criminal Court Hearing?

What happens at a criminal court hearing depends on the type of hearing, but it can include informing the defendant of the nature of the charges, hearing pretrial motions, conducting the trial and sentencing the defendant for the crime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. After trial and sentencing, a criminal court hearing might concern an appeal or a request for a new trial, according to attorney Mark Cantrell.

The first hearing in a criminal case is usually the arraignment, explains the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the charges against him. The judge tells the defendant about his right to an attorney. The defendant also receives information about the maximum penalties for the crime if he is ultimately convicted.

Following arraignment, a number of hearings might occur in a criminal proceeding before trial. These proceedings might include a preliminary review to determine if there is sufficient evidence to continue prosecution of the defendant, states the American Bar Association. Pretrial conference hearings might encourage the prosecutor and defendant to openly exchange available evidence and discuss plea negotiations, says Mark Cantrell.

At trial, the judge or jury decides if the defendant is guilty or innocent. The prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, informs the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. Both the prosecution and defense call witnesses and make arguments to the jury. The jury enters into deliberations to decide whether to find the defendant guilty or innocent, says Mark Cantrell.

If the jury or judge convicts the defendant, the defendant might seek an appeal, says the U.S. Department of Justice. Expungement is a hearing in which a defendant seeks to remove a conviction from his record, explains Mark Cantrell.