Chapter 6 Civil Trial Procedure

I. Pleadings

  1. Complaint:
    • A complaint must be filed by the plaintiff
    • Complaint must be filed with court
    • Court will issue a summons or notice to the defendant
  2. Answer:
    • The defendant MUST file an answer to the summon or risk losing the case by default of the court
    • The answer from the defendant must admit or deny the allegations in the complaint

II. Methods of Discovery

  • All facts involving the case must be brought forward before a trial take place
  • Both parties must present all evidence
  • Most cases are settled after the discovery phase. Settled “out-of-court”
  • If the case can not be settled, the court clerk will put the case on the court calendar

III. Pretrial Hearings

  • Informal hearings before the judge to simplify the issues of the case
  • The judge will outline the law to the attorneys regarding the case as a final attempt to achieve an out-of-court settlement

IV. Jury Selection

  • Jurors are selected from a pool of citizens
  • Jurors purpose is to determine facts and apply the facts to the law
  • Attorneys question jurors prior to trial to determine any biased or prejudiced that might effect judgement
  • Jurors can be dismissed if their judgement is in question
  • Attorneys will try to select jurors who might fit the case profile. (will help the case)

V. Opening Statements

  • An introduction of the case made by both attorneys in an attempt to establish their parties intent or rationale
  • Attornies will describe to the jury how they intend on presenting their rationale of the case

VI. Introduction of Evidence

  • After opening statements plaintiff’s attorney presents evidence to the jury
  • Legal Documents- sales slips, affidavits, business papers
  • Actual Evidence- weapons, clothing, etc…
  • Witnesses- subpoenaed individuals who have observed events relevant to the case
  • Expert Witnesses- qualified individuals with a certain areas of expertise

VII. Cross Examinations

  • Defense cross-examination of plaintiff’s witnesses an the presentation of any new evidence or witnesses that supports the defenses case
  • Plaintiff cross-examination of defenses witnesses and the presentation any new evidence

VIII. Closing Arguments

  • Both parties present closing remarks which summarize the events of the trial and use of witnesses and all actual evidence to support their original rationale

IX. Instructions to the Jury

  • Judge will instruct the jury on legal procedure and laws that pertain to the case in order to produce an accurate verdict

X. Verdict and Judgement

  • Jury deliberates on the facts of the case in a private jury room
  • Verdict in a civil case can be reached without a unanimous vote of the jurors. A majority must vote “in favor of” or against the defendant

2. Criminal Trial Procedure

I. Arrest of the Defendent-

  • May occur any time by a police officer with a warrant
  • May occur without a warrant if the officer has good reason (probable cause) or witnessed a felony or misdemeanor that involves a breach of the peace

II. Rights of the Defendent ” Miranda Rights”

  • Knowledge of the charge
  • Names of police officers
  • Complete telephone call
  • Bail
  • Remain silent- 5th Amendment (Self Incrimination)
  • An attorney provided
  • Right to a speedy trial- due process

III. Search and Seizure (when they are allowed)

  • permission or a search warrant
  • reason to believe there is a hidden weapon
  • an arrest in the accused home
  • Search of car if there is reason to believe illegal items are contained in the vehicle
  • Police have the right to impound a car until a warrant is issued
  • School officials have the right to search students without a warrant (with probable cause)

IV. The Arraignment Process (the steps before the trial)

  1. The Judge’s Review
    • defendant must be brought before the judge immediately after arrest
    • judge briefs accused on his/her rights
    • judge will determine if there is “cause” to continue or dismiss the case. If there is cause, the judge will refer the case to a prosecuting attorney
    • formal charges are now drawn up
  2. Grand Jury “Jury of inquiry”
    • a group of citizens called together to review all information of a case to determine whether there is enough evidence to justify accusing the individual of the crime
    • an indictment will be handed down if grand jury finds enough justification to proceed with the case
    • Not all crimes are severe enough to be sent to a Grand Jury. These are called Petty Offenses such as misdemeanors, and certain felonies are heard by a Petit Jury
    • A Petit Jury determines the guilt or innocence of an individual- A Grand Jury meets in secret on major felonies to rule on possible indictments
  3. The Arraignment
    • After the indictment, the accused must submit a plea- guilty, or not guilty
    • A plead of guilty may result in immediate sentencing by the judge
    • A plea of non guilty sends the case to trial
    • Bail is sent by the judge

Language if the Law-

1. The first pleading filed in a civil case is a complaint.

2. The group of citizens called together to determine whether there is enough evidence to accuse a person of a crime is a grand jury.

3. Spectators at the trial were surprised that the verdict was “guilty.”

4. The detention hearing is usually the first step taken in a juvenile offender’s case. adjudicatory is the next step

5. The court may issue a warrant for arrest.

6. The defendant’s bail will be forfeited if the defendant is not in court at the right time.

7. If the suspect pleads guilty, the judge may impose sentence during arraignment.

8. The answer must be filed within a certain time period.

9. If the members of a grand jury believe that a crime has been committed, they issue the indictment.

10. Following the jury’s verdict, the judgement is issued.

Questions for Review-

1. A civil trial begins with a complaint. -pleadings

2. A criminal trial usually begins with the arrest of the defendant.

3. The rights that a person who has been arrested have are the Miranda Rights. -full phone call, right to remain silent, due process, speedy trial, bail, know charges

4. Police are allowed to search a vehicle without a warrant if they have permission from the driver and believe they saw an item in plain sight.

5. The seven steps of a trial are selecting the jury, opening statements, introduction of evidence, closing arguments, instructions to the jury, the jury’s verdict, and the courts judgement.

6. Jury instructions are necessary because they usually do not have that much knowledge of the law and they need instructions in order to make judgements.

7. A verdict is the juries decision while a judgement is the court’s decision of a case.

8. A grand jury conducts preliminary hearing in secret to determine whether someone must stand trial while a petit jury decides on the guilt or innocence of the person tried and has less members than the grand jury.

9. First, the judge holds a detention hearing, then conducts an adjudicatory hearing which is the actual hearing of the case by the court, and then holds a dispositional hearing where they decide how to dispose of the case.

10. It is impossible to list the exact punishments for juveniles because there is variations in state laws and variation in the interpretation that different judges give to these laws.


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