If a case cannot be resolved without a trial, both attorneys are then given an opportunity to file motions. Motions, simply put, are “requests” that are made of the court to grant some type of “relief.” This relief is usually asking that some part of the state’s evidence be excluded from trial. It may be wise to move to suppress a custodial statement made by you after your detention but before any Miranda advisements were given to you. For example, “You have the right to an attorney; you have the right to remain silent, etc.”
In addition, your attorney will make a motion for the prosecutor to send the “discovery” in your case. Discovery is a generic term. It relates to production of evidence that the state intends to present against you in court. An example of discovery is a list of the state’s witnesses against you, plus information on how to locate them. Obtaining discovery allows a lawyer to be as fully prepared as possible when entering court. One of the key aspects of discovery may be a videotape of your arrest. The videotape comes from either the scene, in the station, or both. Most prosecutors offices in Connecticut follow an “open file” policy from the beginning of the case. They allow your attorney to view the police report. Some will allow a copy, while others only allow notes to be taken.
Next, your attorney will be given oral argument of these motions. This is a very important step. It sometimes allows your attorney to attack various aspects of the state’s case prior to trial. The elimination of harmful evidence is the primary purpose and goal of motions. There will be no jury involved at a motions hearing. Present at a typical motions hearing will be:
- The judge.
- Your attorney.
- The prosecutor.
- The state’s witness (the arresting officer).
Some cases require additional witnesses. The judge will hear motions and argument from both sides, then grant or deny the motions. Most judges refuse to hear motions until the day of trial. This practice is not as desirable for you for many reasons. The most important reasons are:
- It limits your attorney’s time to obtain a transcript of important testimony of the state’s witnesses (commonly used for “impeachment”).
- Your attorney will have to prepare for both motions and trial. This could cost you the entire remainder of you fees in such cases.
Diversionary Programs – Family Violence Education Program
The Family Violence Education Program (FVEP) (C.G.S. § 46b-38c(g)) is available to persons charged with certain family violence crimes, as defined in C.G.S. § 46b-38a. A person who previously participated in this program or in the AR program for a family violence crime committed on or after October 1, 1986 is not eligible for this program. Notice of the defendant’s request to be assigned to the program is given to the victim. Also, the victim is given an opportunity to be heard on the application. If the program is granted, the defendant is released into the custody of the family violence intervention unit (CSSD). This happens for a period not to exceed two years and under conditions set by the court. If the defendant successfully completes the assigned program, the charges are dismissed by the court. Unless waived by the court, the Family Violence Education Program fee is $200.
There are three ways to plead or be found guilty. The first way is a “straight” guilty plea. A straight plea means you agree with the allegations, and that the state is saying you committed a crime and you are agreeing you are guilty.
The second way you can plead guilty is under the Alford Doctrine. The Alford Doctrine means that you do not agree with some or all of the facts that the state claims happened, however, in light of what you know the state has to prove, you wish to plead guilty and accept a definite disposition rather than risk going to trial and losing, and being sentenced to a greater penalty.
The final way to plead guilty is to plead “nolo contendere.” “Nolo contendere” is latin for “No Contest.” This means that you are not contesting the charges. You are not putting up any defenses to the charge. The judge, after hearing the charges, will find you guilty, and sentence you. A “nolo contendere” plea is often used in situations where you may be sued by another person, perhaps a person with whom you were involved with in an accident. This is used because your “nolo contendere” plea cannot be used against you in a civil case like a guilty plea could.
If the case is set down for a trial, there will be a day when you and your attorney will be summoned to begin “jury selection” or “voir dire.” In Connecticut, our Constitution allows for your defense attorney to question each independent potential juror about their knowledge of the case, the witnesses, and their general outlook on life. During this phase, your attorney tries to find the best possible candidates to sit on a jury and side with you. While doing the, the state attorney is looking to find the best possible jurors who will convict you.
Depending on the exact charges against you, your lawyer and the state will each have a number of “challenges.” These challenges allow them to get rid of a potential juror without having a reason. If your attorney or the state attorney tries to exclude a particular gender or race, however, they can be stopped by the judge if it is pointed out by the other side.
Unlike on TV and in the movies, in Connecticut, we do not have long opening statements. In fact, unless there are unusual circumstances and a judge has approved them, there will be no opening statement in your case. The prosecutor will call the first witness for the prosecution, which is usually the police officer. After the state has asked questions of the first witness, your defense lawyer will be allowed to “cross examine” the witness. This continues until the state has no more witnesses to call.
According to the federal and state constitution, the defense has no burden to put on any evidence. If they choose not to do so, the sides would then make their closing arguments. Most of the time, however, the defense will call witnesses of their own. Then, the defense attorney will ask questions, and the prosecution will have a chance to cross examine them on the case. After the defense is done, the state then has a chance to bring in witnesses if they can rebut the evidence of the defense witnesses. If they do not call any, the case proceeds with closing arguments.
During closing arguments, both sides try to convince the jury to either find you guilty or not guilty (depending on the attorney). After closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jury on the law of the case, and how it is to be applied.
Once that is done, the jury is sent to the jury room to deliberate. They elect a foreperson, and discuss the case until they have reached a unanimous verdict. This means they all must agree that the defendant is either guilty or not guilty. Once they have that verdict, they send a note to the judge and tell the court that they are ready to tell the world their verdict. If they cannot agree, the judge may tell them to listen to one another again, and send them back for more deliberations. If they decide they will never agree, the judge declares a mistrial. The judge then brings the jury into the courtroom and the clerk of the court asks the foreperson what the verdict is.
If the jury find you “not guilty” then the case is over. If the jury finds that you are guilty, the case will then be set down for sentencing. When you appear for sentencing, the judge may sentence you to all of the maximum period of jail time you were facing on the charges of which you were convicted. Oftentimes, prior to sentencing, the judge will order the probation department to conduct a pre sentence investigation and report. This report is create by probation officers to give the judge a better understanding of whom you are as a person. The probation department may suggest a certain way for the judge to structure the sentence or certain things to include (community service, counseling) but the judge is the final person who determines what a sentence will be.