The criminal trial process in the United States is complicated and expensive, which is why most cases never make it to trial. In fact, more than 90% of cases end in guilty pleas, according to legal information site Nolo.

If you have been charged with a crime, considering a plea bargain or going through a trial is an involved process. Fortunately, the Constitution entitles you to an attorney, who can be present any time you are interviewed by law enforcement or are in court, so choosing an expert in criminal defense is essential.

“Our criminal defense lawyers in San Antonio recognize the overwhelming anxiety associated with an arrest; the sense of hopelessness in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition can take a serious toll on anyone,” according to LaHood Norton, a law firm focused on criminal defense. “During this difficult time, you need an experienced legal defense team that will even the playing field and ensure that your rights are vigorously defended.”

Here’s what to expect during the criminal trial process.


Your first court appearance should happen 24 to 48 hours after being arrested. A judge will tell you your rights, the charges being brought against you, and whether you can be released on bond or held in jail. Most of the time, defendants are released with a bail payment and a promise to appear at future hearings.


Plea bargain

A prosecutor may offer a deal that would allow you to avoid a trial in exchange for pleading guilty and potentially receiving a reduced sentence. If you plead guilty, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled. Your attorney will discuss with you whether, based on the evidence, it would be better to accept the deal or move forward with a trial.


Preliminary hearings and motions

If you do not plead guilty, your next court appearance will be a preliminary hearing or the convening of a grand jury, depending on how serious the charges are and whether you are in state or federal court. Attorneys will present evidence and witnesses, and the judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence to move forward with a trial.

If your case moves forward, attorneys can file pre-trial motions. Your attorney may request that the judge dismiss charges, suppress statements or evidence that were collected illegally, or allow for a change of venue if the local jury pool may have been prejudiced by publicity.



The trial will begin with jury selection, when attorneys select jurors they believe will listen impartially and rule based on available evidence.

The trial will then move to opening statements from attorneys, who will outline what they plan to prove or present. The prosecution may call witnesses to ask questions, after which your defense attorney may cross examine, and the prosecution may redirect.

When the prosecution rests its case, your defense attorney may then present evidence and witnesses. This could include calling you to the stand, although the Fifth Amendment gives you the right not to testify.

Finally, each side will make closing arguments, and the jury will deliberate. Their decision must be unanimous.


Verdict and sentencing

The jury will present the judge with their verdict. A not-guilty verdict means you are free to go. A guilty verdict means you will be taken into custody and sentenced at a later court appearance, which your attorney will prepare you for.


If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, the experts at LaHood Norton can help. Visit for more information and to schedule a free consultation.