How Trials Work

The burden of proof in criminal trials is very high. The state must prove through the presentation of testimony and evidence that the defendant is guilty of the alleged charges "beyond a reasonable doubt." Beyond a reasonable doubt means that the judge or jury must find that the charges are "almost certainly true" and is the highest legal burden in the entire court system. The District Attorney’s Office welcomes this burden since a defendant’s liberty is at stake when it comes to trial.A defendant may or may not be represented by an attorney at trial. The defendant or the defense attorney is allowed to ask questions of all witnesses. All trials (except most juvenile trials) are open to the general public.

Types of Trial

A “trial by jury” is a trial in which the fact-finders are 12 individuals picked from the community (“The Jury”) who hear the evidence and the law and make a unanimous decision if the defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty.”

A “bench trial” is a trial in which the fact-finder is a Judge or Justice of the Unified Criminal Court.


The defendant has the right to appeal a guilty finding and can take up to 2 years.
If the defendant is found not guilty, the state cannot appeal and the case is closed forever.