How to Properly Understand Criminal Cases: An Overview

Everyone interested in the justice system, whether they are lawyers or curious citizens, should properly understand criminal cases, as they are the basis to appreciate the intricacies of law and how it affects society. So, let’s take a closer look at the fundamentals of criminal cases, which steps are a must in this process, and which rules govern the final resolution of the case.

Who are the key participants?

A person who is facing criminal charges is known as the defendant. Of course, they are assumed innocent before the plaintiff, a person who files a claim against someone, proves the opposite. 

A prosecutor is a person who is authorized to present the case against the accused person. They must establish the defendant’s guilt using all legal measures to successfully finish the case. 

Legal representation of the accused person must lay out a defense against the allegations and defend their client’s rights.

The judge is a neutral third party who rules the whole process and guarantees a fair trial. 

The jury is a group of people who must review the case and together reach a judgment on guilt or innocence.


Law enforcement organizations will collect evidence, question witnesses, and even search the property to investigate whether the crime has taken place and to identify the offender. Sometimes, they will use forensic methods and get warrants to conduct this part properly. Also, some investigations are rather quick, while others can last for several weeks, months, or in some complicated cases, even years. 


Police can arrest a suspect if they find enough evidence of their misdemeanor. They will bring the person to the station where they will take their picture and fingerprints, apart from other important details. 


The charging stage is where the prosecutor decides whether to formally charge a person or not. They will examine physical evidence, interview witnesses, check expert assessments, police reports, and other important evidence to decide what to do next. Prosecutors will also consider things like the gravity of the case, the suspect’s background and criminal record, and other important factors to consider whether or not to press charges against them. 

Initial court appearance

At the first court appearance, the defendant becomes familiar with the accusations against them, and this first appearance takes place within 24 to 48 hours after the arrest. The court will also inform them of their constitutional rights, like the right to an attorney and the right to stay quiet. Just like the Denver criminal justice attorney explains, anyone facing criminal charges should contact and speak with experienced lawyers, no matter the stage of the criminal process. If they cannot pay for the one, the court will usually assign a legal representative. In this stage, the defendant can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or contest. The court will also consider bail, but it depends on many factors, including the defendant’s likelihood of escaping and overall safety. 


Pre-trial hearings are important to settle the necessary legal questions. Both the prosecution and defense can submit motions to influence the whole process, protect the defendant’s or plaintiff’s rights, and guarantee a fair trial. They can either submit motions to dismiss charges, which state that there is not enough evidence to continue with the process, or motions to suppress evidence, which state that some part of the evidence is illegal and should not be shown at trial. The judge will listen to both sides and decide which motions to accept and how to proceed with the trial. Some of the important goals of this part of the case include limiting which topics will be discussed, as well as trying to reach plea deals that will help avoid trial completely.


The prosecution has the burden of proof to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in the whole process. The prosecutor will achieve this goal if they present strong evidence and witness testimonies that clearly show the defendant has committed a certain crime. On the other hand, the defendant’s attorney must cast doubt on the prosecution’s claims and examine any witnesses they have. They also have the right to submit their witnesses and strong evidence that proves the defendant’s innocence. Based on the facts presented during the trial, the judge or jury will determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. There is a possibility of a jury trial, or that parties agree to a trial before a bench. A judge hears both sides in a bench trial and then decides without a jury.


Upon a guilty verdict, the court’s probation department will prepare a pre-sentence report which will include the defendant’s history and details of the offense. Also, the court will reach out to every victim of the crime to discuss potential sentences. Finally, they will include the suggested punishment in the report. The court later determines the sentencing. They can sentence the accused person to any number of penalties, including fines, probation, community service, jail, or a mix of these. If the victim has sustained some financial losses, the court will also impose reparation orders on the offender. 


If the defendant finds the sentence to be unfair, they can appeal the decision. They can do this with a higher court, claiming that the trial court made a mistake and that the sentence was not right. These mistakes can include faulty jury instructions, inappropriate evidence admission, or a lack of evidence to sustain a guilty judgment. The higher court will look over what exactly happened, and they will concentrate on those potential mistakes. They can either confirm the first ruling, overturn the conviction, change the punishment, or send the case back to a new trial again. Appeals are necessary parts of criminal law, as they make sure that everyone’s rights are protected and preserve faith in the criminal justice system. 

Being familiar with criminal cases involves many aspects, like understanding the fundamental legal concepts, the necessary legal processes, and so on. Every step of the case must respect fairness and individual rights, from the first investigation to the sentencing part.