Click here for the typical case flow chart
Arraignment: The judge reads the information to the defendant, who must enter a plea. If the plea is "guilty," the defendant will be scheduled for sentencing, or the defendant can waive the waiting period and be sentenced immediately. If the plea is "not guilty," a pretrial conference and trial dates are usually scheduled. A "not guilty" plea preserves all of the defendant's options. A “no contest” plea the same procedural effect as a guilty plea, but rather than admitting guilt, the defendant admits that the prosecutor would likely prevail at trial. Some judges will not accept this plea.
Pre-Trial Conference: At its discretion, the trial court may hold a pre-trial conference in which the prosecutor and defense attorney attempt to negotiate settlement of the case. A judge may refuse to approve a proposed settlement. Cases that are not settled are set for trial.
Trial: In a Bench Trial, the Judge will hear the evidence presented by both sides and then decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. In a Jury Trial, a panel of four jurors will hear the case and then they will decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The defendant ONLY has a right to a jury trial if the defendant can be jailed if found guilty. Usually, traffic offenses are not eligible be heard by juries. Non-lawyers who desire a jury trial are encouraged to (1) get an attorney or (2) study the applicable rules, laws and codes governing jury trials. A defendant can jeopardize his or her rights or liberty if these rules are not followed. Since the prosecution has the burden of proof to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they have the first opportunity to speak to the court. This is called an opening statement. Then the defense has the option to make their opening statement immediately or wait until the beginning of their turn to present evidence & witnesses.
The opening statement is an opportunity for the defendant to briefly describe the types of evidence and what the defendant hopes that the evidence will mean to the Judge or the Jury. Neither side is required to make an opening statement. After the opening statements, the prosecution presents its "case-in-chief". The prosecutor will offer evidence to prove that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed the crime.
After the prosecution is done, the defendant will have the opportunity to present his or her side of the story. Either side may present testimony by witnesses or submit documents subject to the Utah Rules of Evidence and the Utah Code and Rules of Criminal Procedure. After the defendant finishes presenting his or her side of the story, then each side will have the opportunity to rebut the other side. This is done by presenting additional testimony or evidence. Again, the prosecutor goes first, and then the defendant will have a chance to speak. After each side is done, then both parties have the opportunity to make a closing argument.
During closing arguments, each side will have the opportunity to explain to the Judge or the Jury why they are right. The prosecution goes first and gives a closing argument, and then the defendant will get to argue his or her case followed by a final argument by the prosecution. The case is then submitted to the Judge or Jury for a determination as to guilt.
If a defendant is found not guilty, then the defendant is free to go and the proceedings end. If the defendant is found guilty, then the defendant will have the right to be sentenced in not less than two days nor more than forty-five days. In most cases, the defendant may waive this right and receive sentencing immediately.