The process of a criminal case is different from that of a civil case. You may want to learn about the different steps of a criminal trial to know what to expect and how to prepare accordingly.


At the initial hearing, a judge informs you of your charges, your right to an attorney, as well as your next court date and its location. If you don’t have the money to hire an attorney, the judge will assign a public defender for you.


The next court date is a formal appearance. This isn’t the trial, though. You may meet with your attorney for the first time during the formal appearance. There is the option to enter a plea agreement. However, you forfeit your right to a trial if you plead guilty. Some people choose to enter a plea agreement because they would get a better sentence than if they went to trial and lost.


Judges might choose to hold omnibus hearings before the trial. These could include pre-trial conferences, status hearings and hearings on motions.


Indiana’s criminal law stipulates that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. During your trial, your attorney will have the chance to cross-examine witnesses and present your case. Felony trials usually bring in a jury. You, your attorney and the prosecutor would have to agree to go without a jury to have a bench trial.


Sentencing occurs one month after your trial if the court found you guilty. For those who enter a plea agreement, they also must wait one month for their sentencing. You have a chance to help the judge look more favorably upon you by sending personal references and other relevant information. Before your sentencing date, you also have a meeting with a probate officer that involves writing a recommendation for your punishment. At the sentencing, you have the opportunity to speak with the judge. You could opt to have another person speak on your behalf as well.

The standard criminal case in Indiana starts with an initial hearing and has another hearing before your trial. Although you have the option to plead guilty at the initial hearing, this might not be the best option for you.