What happens at a criminal pretrial conference?

Countless steps and plenty of negotiations are required before a case reaches resolution. The legal functionalities without a legal representation can appear daunting and hard to manage on your own.

If you or your loved one is involved in a criminal lawsuit and you have made the decision to claim trial and contest the potential charges against you, then it is probable that the court will schedule your case for a pre-trial conference. This is where most people appear confused and ask questions like what happens at a criminal pretrial conference.

The reason behind scheduling the pre-trial conference from the court is to prepare the prosecution and defense for trial and to resolve administrative matters before scheduling the trial date on the defendant’s or the prosecutor’s request.

What is a pre-trial conference?

As the term ‘pre-trial conference’ suggests, it is a meeting of parties involved in a lawsuit before a trial. A pre-trial conference can be requested by either the defendant or the plaintiff, or if needed the court can also order it to see whether the parties are ready for the trial. There could be several reasons for a pre-trial conference. Some of them include:

  • Simplifying the issues
  • Speed up the case process
  • Limiting the number of witnesses
  • Negotiate on specific purposes
  • Facilitate the settlement
  • Discourage wasteful activities
  • Demonstrating the possible evidence to be used in the trial
  • To see if a mediator can help in the resolution

Generally, in a criminal case, a pre-trial conference does not decide the innocence or the guilt of the defendant. The conference is to encourage an expeditious and fair trial and to discuss the primary matters of the trial such as what evidence or how many witnesses would be presented during the trial.

At the time of the pre-trial conference, the judge can order rulings in the light of motions and pleas, decide the date of the trial, and decide the type of evidence that can be submitted during the trial. The topic which often comes under discussion is discovery. Discovery is the procedure through which the parties exchange the evidence and make requests for the production of the documents or admission of documents.

Judges in the civil courts encourage using the pre-trial procedure to settle down the conflict. In cases where the dispute does not reach a resolution, the judge may refer the case to mediation or arbitration where a third party helps the involved parties to resolve the matter in a controlled environment. Other than that, the judge may also schedule the trial date at the end of the pre-trial conference if the dispute remains unconcluded.

How should you prepare for the pre-trial conference?

Before you choose to go for a trial, you should consider the following matters that you may go through during a pre-trial conference:

You must check the written evidence such as interviews and recordings that the prosecution may have collected from the police. The prosecution may use the statements you made during the investigation before the police, therefore you should ask for a copy of those statements.

Similarly, the prosecution can also ask for a copy of any evidence that you are planning to use in support of your case.

You must inform the court about the number of witnesses you want to call during the trial to testify in your support.

If you or any of your informed witnesses could not speak English correctly, then you should inform the court that you will need the assistance of an interpreter during the trial.

It is better to think about all the possible consequences and the situations that may arise during the trial. It is recommended to talk to your lawyer about your concerns to have a better view of your trial outcome.

What should you expect to happen in a pre-trial conference?   

The purpose of the pre-trial conference is scheduled to see if the defendant and the plaintiff are ready for the trial. If you are facing criminal charges, then you should attend the pre-trial conference along with the prosecution, who may be represented by the prosecuting office i.e. DPP –Deputy Public Prosecutor.

At the conference, you and the sitting judge will get to know the evidence that your prosecution is going to use against you in the criminal case proceedings. The witnesses will also be called to the conference to testify in court. Once, the administrative matters are resolved by both parties, then the judge will likely schedule the date for the trial.

So, here we believe that you have gathered the basic information about what happens at a criminal pretrial conference.

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