Empty courtroomThis is the next post in my series on the handling of rape or sexual assault charges in Peoria, Illinois. My last article discussed Illinois’ penalties for sexual assault. Defendants must realize that a conviction will mean mandatory prison time and the requirement of having to register as a sex offender. This can result in lifelong difficulties even after one is released from prison. The best way to prevent a conviction is to mount a proper defense. The first step in doing so is to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. There are times when such charges can only be defended by taking a case to trial. In this article I will discuss what a defendant should expect during the trial process. If you require assistance then contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

Trial will begin with the selection of a jury. The defendant’s attorney and the prosecutors will each be allowed to question potential jurors, through a process known as voir dire. The Judge may also ask questions of the jurors. If it is clear that a potential juror cannot be impartial then the Judge may dismiss them “for cause.” The attorneys for each side may use one of their “challenges” to remove a potential juror from the pool of candidates. Potential jurors may not be removed from the pool for reasons relating to ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other characteristic. If the prosecution removes individuals for a protected characteristic then the defendant may challenge the removal on appeal.

Opening statements will be made once the jury has been selected. Opening statements are not a time for argument; each side may only use this time to tell the jurors about the evidence they can expect to hear. The prosecution will present its evidence and witnesses and the defense will then present its case. The prosecution will then present with “rebuttal” evidence. Rebuttal is not a time to raise new issues. The prosecution may only use this part of the case to directly rebut claims that have been made by the defense. Each side will then make their closing arguments. The jury will deliberate and issue a verdict. If the defendant is convicted then a later court date will be set for the purpose of sentencing. If the defendant is acquitted then the case is over and he or she will be released shortly thereafter.

I cannot stress enough the fact that trial is a very complicated process. The rules of evidence and procedure will be strictly enforced. A failure to follow these rules can result in a defendant not being able to present all of their evidence to the jury. It is, therefore, vital that you retain an attorney who is experienced in taking cases to trial. I am a former prosecutor who is familiar with our local systems. I believe everyone is entitled to aggressive representation and respect. Call my office to speak with a Peoria lawyer. I also service the cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington. I also serve the counties of Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford.

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