Experienced and Accessible Criminal Defense on Your Side Call or Text Me Today
Judge listening to arguments in court room

What to Expect at Trial

Greg Nelson Attorney at Law  May 24, 2024

If you are facing criminal charges and your case is headed to trial, the steps you take now to prepare for what’s to come will have a profound impact on the outcome of your case. Each decision you make right now – from consulting with an attorney to preparing for court appearances — matters.  

Remember: without adequate legal representation, you are just another case number for the criminal justice system. But this doesn’t have to be this way. You deserve a fair shot at justice, and I am here to make that happen.

At Greg Nelson Attorney at Law, I stand ready to guide you through every step of the way and provide you with superior representation. I have two offices in Omaha, Nebraska, but serve clients across the state of Nebraska, including Saunder County, Sarpy County, Washington County, and Dodge County.  

What You Need to Know About the Criminal Trial Process

After you have been arrested, you have to wait for your arraignment where:  

  • You will be informed of the charges against you;  

  • The judge will address bail and release conditions if applicable; and 

  • You will have to enter a plea (guilty/not guilty/no contest).  

If you reach a plea deal or plead “no contest,” your case won’t go to trial. However, if you plead not guilty, the court will set a date for your trial. This is where the preparation for a trial officially begins. This is also the point where it becomes critical that you hire a criminal defense lawyer (if you haven’t already).  

Steps to Take Before Your Trial

Facing a criminal trial is undoubtedly daunting. However, instead of just waiting for it to happen, you should take the steps that pave the path towards success:  

  1. Hire a skilled attorney and start working on your defense immediately. 

  1. Read and understand the charges against you. 

  1. Find out about the potential penalties you are facing. 

  1. Talk to your attorney about the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case. 

  1. Collect all available evidence to bolster your defense. 

  1. Gather witness statements and testimonies. 

  1. Have a solid strategy for all pre-trial hearings. 

The days that follow your arrest may feel like an eternity. However, you cannot afford to just wait and do nothing in preparation for your pre-trial proceedings and trial. You need to remember that your freedom and future are at stake.  

What Happens at Trial?

Understanding the stages of a criminal trial can provide some comfort in an otherwise tumultuous time. When the trial should take place is regulated by state law. In Nebraska, every person charged with a crime must be brought to trial within six months of filing the charges or arrest pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1207

A typical trial consists of the following stages:  

  • Jury selection. This process, known as "voir dire," involves the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys asking potential jurors questions to determine if they can judge the case fairly and without bias. Each side has the opportunity to dismiss certain jurors, either for cause (if they demonstrate an inability to be impartial) or through peremptory challenges (without needing to provide a reason, as long as it’s not based on race or gender). 

  • Opening statements. Once the jury is selected, the trial moves to opening statements. This is the first opportunity for both the prosecution and the defense to present their narrative of the case to the jury. The prosecution speaks first, outlining what they believe has happened. Then, it’s the defense’s turn to either present its version of events or highlight the lack of evidence in the prosecution’s case. These statements serve merely as a roadmap of what each side believes the evidence will prove. 

  • Presentation of evidence. The presentation of evidence is the core of any criminal trial, where both sides present their cases to the jury. The prosecution presents its evidence first, calling witnesses to testify and presenting physical evidence to support their claim that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. After the prosecution is finished with its presentation, the defense has the opportunity to present its evidence and witnesses, although they are not required to do so. Defense strategies can vary widely, from providing an alibi for the defendant to questioning the validity of the prosecution's evidence. 

  • Closing statements. After the presentation of evidence, both sides make their closing arguments. This is their last chance to address the jury directly, summarizing the evidence and attempting to persuade the jury to either convict or acquit the defendant. The prosecution will argue that they have met their burden of proof, while the defense will highlight any doubts or inconsistencies in the evidence presented. 

  • Verdict. After closing arguments, the jury deliberates in private, discussing the case and examining the evidence to reach a unanimous decision. If they cannot reach a unanimous decision, it may result in a hung jury, and the prosecution must decide whether to retry the case. If the jury reaches a decision, they will return to the courtroom to announce the verdict of guilty or not guilty. 

Where your case is headed after the verdict depends on the verdict and whether the parties are satisfied with that verdict. If you and your legal counsel believe any errors were made during the trial process, you can initiate an appeals process.  

Don’t Face Your Criminal Charges Alone

If you have been arrested on criminal charges, you might still have a chance to fight back and avoid a conviction. The worst thing you can do is to accept all the charges against you or attempt to go to trial alone.

As a criminal defense attorney, I have devoted my entire career to helping people like you protect their freedom and get their lives back on track.  

With decades of experience at Greg Nelson Attorney at Law, I can help you navigate the criminal justice system and represent you at every stage of your case, from the moment of your arrest all the way to the trial and appeals process. Get in touch today to request a consultation.