Criminal Law


The prosecuting attorney will begin the case by calling witnesses and asking them questions. This is direct examination.

Witnesses in all trials take an oath or affirmation that what they say in court is true. All trial evidence, including testimony and physical evidence such as documents, weapons or articles of clothing, must be acceptable as defined by the Arizona Rules of Evidence before it can be admitted into evidence and shown to the jury. The judge decides what evidence and testimony is admissible under the rules.

In a criminal trial, the prosecuting attorney presents evidence and testimony of witnesses to try to prove the defendant committed the crime. The attorney for the defendant may present evidence and witnesses to show that the defendant did not commit the crime or to create a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt. The defendant is considered innocent of the crime charged until proven guilty.

When the side of the prosecution has completed its questioning of a witness, the defense is allowed to cross-examine the witness on any relevant matter.

After cross-examination, the attorney who originally called the witness may ask additional questions of the witness to clarify something touched on in the cross-examination. This is redirect examination. The judge may allow an opportunity for the opposing attorney to recross examine.

When the plaintiff or prosecution has called all the witnesses for its side of the case and presented all its evidence, that side rests its case.

At this point, the attorney of the defendant may ask the court to decide the case in favor of the defendant because the plaintiff or prosecuting attorney did not present sufficient evidence to prove the case against the defendant. This is called a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case.

If the judge agrees that there is not enough evidence to rule against the defendant, the judge rules in favor of the defendant and the case ends.

If a judgment of acquittal is not requested, or if the request is denied, the defense may present evidence for its side of the case. The attorney for the defense often waits until this point in the trial to make an opening statement.

The defense may choose not to present evidence, as it is not required to do so. Remember, the defendant in a criminal case is not required to prove innocence. The prosecution is required to prove the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the defense does present a case and call witnesses, the same rules and procedures that governed presentation of evidence by the prosecution now apply to evidence presented by the defense.

At the conclusion of the case, the prosecutor may present additional information to respond to evidence offered by the defense. Following this, the defense is given another opportunity to present additional evidence on the behalf of the defendant.

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This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.