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Criminal Law


A jury’s role in a criminal case is to determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant. In accordance with this role, the jury must also judge the facts of the case. In order to make its factual determination, the jury is instructed on the law by a trial court. The trial court sets forth the law in written instructions that are delivered to the jury before the prosecution and the defense make their closing arguments. The jury is not permitted to receive the law from any source other than the trial court.


When an accused has been charged with an offense, he has a choice of whether to enter a not guilty, a no contest, or a guilty plea. A not guilty plea is a plea in which the accused does not accept responsibility for the charged offense. After the accused has entered a not guilty plea, the matter is set for trial. Pre-trial procedures and trial preparations then begin.


A defendant is guaranteed the right to a public trial under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The right to a public trial is also an element of the defendant’s due process rights, which rights are guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In addition, states have enacted provisions in their constitutions that guarantee a defendant’s right to a public trial.


A defendant in a criminal prosecution is guaranteed the right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution unless the prosecution is for a petty offense. A petty offense is defined as an offense that carries a penalty of no more than six months in jail.


Under the United States Code wiretaps are permitted after a proper application has been made for their usage. A wiretap is defined as a form of electronic surveillance whereupon law enforcement officers listen to phone conversations or other communications of certain individuals.