The burden of proof in criminal trials is very high. The state must prove through the presentation of testimony and evidence that the defendant is guilty of the alleged charges "beyond a reasonable doubt." Beyond a reasonable doubt means that the judge or jury must find that the charges are "almost certainly true."

How Trials Work

A defendant may or may not be represented by an attorney at trial. The defendant or the defense attorney is allowed to ask questions of all witnesses. All trials (except most juvenile trials) are open to the general public.

Types of Trial

In a bench trial, after all the witnesses testify, the judge decides whether or not the defendant is guilty.

In jury trials, in order for the defendant to be found guilty, all 12 members of a jury must agree that the defendant is guilty.


The defendant has the right to appeal a guilty finding. Appeals can take up to 2 years and most are unsuccessful.

If the defendant is found not guilty, the state cannot appeal and the case is closed forever.