Do cases always have a trial?
No. Although the defendant has a right to a trial, most cases are resolved through plea agreements.
If I am called as a witness to testify, what do I say?
Tell the truth. You should always contact the prosecutor or victim assistance staff before the trial starts if you have any questions.
Why are charges dropped?
Charges may be dropped before the indictment or information because they may have been initially inappropriate, or some charges are so similar it is not appropriate to proceed on all of them. Charges may be dropped after indictment or information because there are problems with evidence, witness availability, valid defenses, credibility, or other reasons.
Why are charges reduced/plea agreements made?
Charges are reduced/plea agreements made when the penalty and possible sentencing conditions are similar to what the defendant would get for the original charges: or the prosecutor believes there may not be enough evidence to get a conviction on the original charges. Plea agreements remove all of the risk that is part of a jury trial. It is a sure thing. When the defendant enters a guilty plea, there is no appeal.
Admissible Evidence: allowing certain statements or objects to be used to support the case.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Is the certainty necessary for a juror to legally find a criminal defendant guilty.
Continuance: a postponement of a hearing to a later date granted by the court.
Conviction: finding a defendant guilty of a charge at trial or plea agreement, a finding of guilty but mentally ill, or a no contest plea.
Cross Examination: questions an attorney asks the other side's witness.
Defendant: a person charged with a criminal offense.
Direct Examination: questions that a lawyer asks his/her own witness.
Excluded Evidence: statements or objects not permitted to be used to support one side's case.
Felony: the most serious type of criminal offense; punishable by more than two years in prison, however, the prison term can be suspended in some cases. Example of felony charges are: burglary, murder, robbery, and unlawful sexual intercourse.
Hearsay: evidence based on what the witness has heard from other people rather than personally experienced; this is usually not admissible.
Misdemeanor: an offense which can result in up to two years incarceration. Example of misdemeanor charges are: theft, offensive touching.
Mistrial: a trial declared invalid because of a mistake in the proceedings. The prosecutor decides whether to re-try the case.
Objection: Statement by an attorney opposing particular testimony, conduct or evidence during the trial.
Overruled: court's denial of a motion or objection.
Plea Agreement: agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant, where the defendant agrees to plead guilty, usually to a reduced charge and gives up his or her right to a trial.
Prosecutor: A lawyer that represents the State of Delaware on behalf of the public. In Delaware, known as a Deputy Attorney General.
Restitution: an amount the court orders a convicted defendant to pay to the victim for losses or damages as a result of the crime.
Subpoena: an order from the Court to appear at a judicial hearing.