Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
What Are the Steps of a Criminal Trial in Indiana? Contact Us
Indianapolis Criminal & OWI Lawyers > Blog > Criminal Defense > What Are the Steps of a Criminal Trial in Indiana?

What Are the Steps of a Criminal Trial in Indiana?


When you are arrested and charged with a crime, your case can be resolved in several ways. First, your attorney can work to have your charges dismissed or dropped. Second, your defense lawyer can negotiate a fair plea deal. Lastly, your case may have to go to trial. Most criminal cases are resolved without the need for a trial. Research suggests that only about 5 to 10 percent of federal and state court criminal cases are resolved through a criminal trial. For cases that are not dismissed, most all end in plea bargains.

At times, it is necessary to take a criminal case to trial. This is most likely to occur when the parties cannot agree on the legally relevant facts and applicable law. The purpose of trial is for the jury, or judge, to settle these disagreements.  When a case goes to trial in Indiana, the trial process will entail several steps. Below are the general steps of a criminal trial in Indiana.

Jury Selection

Criminal defendants have the right to be tried by a jury. So, the first step in an Indiana criminal trial is jury selection (voir dire). The primary goal during this step is to choose an impartial and fair jury. The voir dire process generally involves attorneys questioning the jury pool and removing individuals they believe are incapable of fairness or impartiality. Attorneys can request that potential jurors be removed with cause (challenges for cause) or without cause (peremptory challenges). However, attorneys have a limited number of peremptory challenges.

Preliminary Instructions

Jury members then receive initial instructions from the judge regarding their work during the trial. These instructions include the burden of proof, issues to be determined at trial, explain applicable law, prohibition on independent investigations, and how the trial will proceed.

Opening Statements

The trial starts with the prosecutor giving their opening statement, followed by the defense attorney. Generally, the prosecutor gives a statement on the evidence they will present throughout the trial to prove the defendant’s guilt, and the defense attorney explains why the State cannot meet their burden to prove guilt.  .

Evidence and Witnesses

Next, during the State’s case-in-chief, the state calls witnesses for questioning and presents evidence.  After the close of the State’s case-in-chief, the defense may choose to call witnesses for questioning and/or present evidence in their case-in-chief.  However, presenting evidence is optional for the defense side. After the prosecuting attorney calls their witnesses and questions them, the defense attorney cross-examines the witnesses. If called, the prosecuting attorney also may cross-examine the defense attorney’s witnesses. In Indiana, jurors can ask questions after the lawyers.

Closing Arguments

After both sides have presented evidence and witnesses and done the cross-examination, they make closing arguments. Attorneys make closing arguments with the aim of convincing the jurors that their version of events, and application of the law, is correct and supports a particular verdict. The defense attorney will try to persuade jurors that their client is not guilty, whereas the state will try to convince the jury that the evidence presented meets the beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof and supports a guilty verdict.

Final Instructions

Before jury members go into deliberations, they receive the final instructions from the judge. These instructions cover the burden of proof, elements required to be proven by the State, explain applicable law, prohibition on independent investigations, and the limits and rules of deliberation.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict

Finally, the jury discusses the case in confidence. Deliberations can take a few hours or even days. If jurors have questions, they send them to the judge. If the jury does not believe they can reach a unanimous verdict, the judge will have to decide whether they must keep trying or whether it is appropriate to “hang” the jury.  If after the jury finishes deliberating, they have reached a unanimous verdict, the verdict is announced in court.

Contact an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges in Indiana, contact a skilled Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer at Rigney Law LLC for legal help.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Contact Us
protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms