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Communication Skills, Report Writing, and Courtroom Testimony for Forensic Analysts

Criminal Proceedings

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Photo of courtroom during criminal proceedings
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Generally, there are four types of courts within the criminal justice system:

  1. Grand jury (not a true "court" type, but a proceeding where witnesses testify)
  2. Trial courts
  3. Appellate courts
  4. Supreme courts

There may be times when analysts are called to testify in grand jury and trial court proceedings. The grand jury is a panel of citizens subpoenaed as any other jury for the particular purpose of hearing evidence presented by the prosecuting attorney's office only. Grand jurors may be permitted to ask questions of witnesses who are invited to testify before the grand jury. There is normally no defendant or defense counsel present during these proceedings. States which do not use grand juries rely instead upon preliminary hearings. A preliminary hearing is held in order to determine whether there is probable cause to hold the defendant for trial. A few states use both the grand jury mechanism and a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing will have many of the same characteristics as a criminal trial. The defendant may be present, and the prosecution may present witnesses and will offer evidence in support of the complaint. The defendant will be afforded the right to testify and may also call witnesses.01

Analysts will spend most of their testimony time in the trial court, where they may encounter one of two types of proceedings: the "motion hearing" or the "trial." A motion proceeding is normally comprised of the judge, court personnel, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and defendant. The trial is comprised of the same individuals as the motion hearing with a jury being present.

Analysts are not normally called to testify at appellate or supreme court hearings.

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