The criminal justice system can be confusing, and intimidating, to navigate for a first-time defendant. Just being arrested and charged with a criminal offense is enough to cause you to become stressed out and worried about the outcome of your case. On top of that though, you now have to try and figure out how the entire criminal prosecution works, adding even more stress and confusion to your life. One of the first, and most important, steps you need to take when you have been charged with a crime is retaining the services of an experience Nebraska criminal defense attorney. Of course, having an attorney represent you in a criminal case is also new to you, causing yet another round of questions. One big question people often have relates to the relationship between the defense and the prosecution. Specifically, you may want to know if criminal attorneys have to tell the prosecutor what a client’s defense will be. Learning some basics about how the prosecution and the defense interact during a criminal prosecution may help answer that question as well as several related questions.
First things first. You need to understand who the “players” are in your case. When you were arrested, the police officer who arrested you may have told you what charges were being filed against you or what you were being arrested for at the time. Contrary to what people often believe, however, the police do not decide what charges will be filed against you. If the officer arrested you pursuant to a warrant for your arrest, it means that an investigation already took place and charges have already been filed against you. If the officer arrested you on the spot, because of a crime that was recently committed (such as a DUI or shoplifting) it means that charges had yet to be officially filed against you at that time. Either way, it was the prosecuting attorney’s office that decided what charges to file, not the police. The police simply file a report, either after an investigation or after an arrest, with the prosecutor’s office and then a decision is made by the prosecutor’s office what charges to file. A police officer may ultimately be a witness against you, but the prosecuting attorney (or a deputy prosecuting attorney) will be responsible for trying the case against you. The prosecuting attorney represents the State of Nebraska and files charges against you for the State.
The Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in a criminal case lies with the State. In the U.S. an accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the State, through the prosecuting attorney, must prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant, on the other hand, is not required to prove, or do, anything. The defendant does not even have to present a defense — and, in fact, sometimes not presenting a defense is actually the best defense.
Who Has to Discover What in a Criminal Prosecution?
“Discovery” is the legal term given to the process of sharing information in both civil and criminal cases. In a criminal prosecution, the State is required to “discover” more the defense than the defense is required to discover to the State. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among them the idea that a defense attorney cannot properly defend a client unless he/she knows what the State plans to introduce at trial. There are also constitutional arguments that support a defendant’s objection to discovering anything to the prosecution. Despite these ideas and arguments, there are some things that defense attorneys are required to discover to the prosecution, such as if the defendant plans to use an alibi witness. As a general rule, however, defense attorneys are not required to tell the prosecution what a client’s defense will be – or even if a defense will be presented.
If you are currently facing criminal charges in Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.