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How Long Does a Wyoming Criminal Case Take to Resolve?

By stladmin on May 30, 2024

A statue of the lady of justice and a judges gavel on a table.

There are several factors that can impact how long a criminal trial is going to take, including the nature of the charges, the number of witnesses, the complexity of the case, and the court calendar. There are also unpredictable circumstances that can lengthen a trial, such as a defendant who decides to change their legal representation during the middle of a trial, or when an officer of the court such as the judge gets sick.

Some cases may be resolved in about 4 to 6 months. But more complex cases where the defendant is facing a mandatory sentence may take up to a year or longer. Murder cases frequently take over a year to complete, and these case could last for up two years or longer, particularly if it’s a capital murder.

Because there are so many variables involved, it would be irresponsible for a criminal defense lawyer to make any firm predictions about how long your case is going to take. But having a well-prepared Gillette criminal defense attorney who understands the scheduling process can speed up the process.

The Initial Phases of a Wyoming Criminal Case

The arrest and booking process marks the beginning of a criminal case in Wyoming. Once an individual is arrested, they are taken to a local detention facility for booking. This involves recording personal details, taking fingerprints, and photographing the suspect. The timeline for arrest and booking can vary but generally takes a few hours. During this period, the suspect’s rights are read, and they may be allowed to contact an attorney. Following booking, the suspect may either be held in custody until their arraignment or released on bail, depending on the severity of the charges and other factors.

The arraignment usually occurs within 48 to 72 hours after an arrest, excluding weekends and holidays. During arraignment, the defendant appears before a judge who reads the charges against them. The defendant is then asked to enter a plea—guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The arraignment also provides an opportunity for the judge to review bail conditions and make any necessary adjustments.

Pretrial motions are filed after the arraignment, and this can significantly influence the direction and timeline of a criminal case. These motions are legal requests made by the defense or prosecution seeking a court ruling on specific issues before the trial begins. Common pretrial motions include motions to dismiss the case, suppress evidence, or compel discovery.

The timeline for resolving pretrial motions can vary widely, often taking several weeks to a few months, depending on the complexity of the issues and the court’s schedule. If the judge grants a defense attorney’s motion to dismiss the case because the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence, the whole process will end right here.

Discovery and Pretrial Preparations

The discovery phase is crucial for both the defense and prosecution. It involves the exchange of evidence that will be presented in court. In Wyoming, the evidence disclosure timelines are governed by legal requirements that mandate timely sharing of information to ensure a fair trial. Typically, the prosecution must disclose evidence within a few weeks to a few months after the arraignment. This includes police reports, witness statements, forensic evidence, and any exculpatory evidence that could favor the defense. The defense also has obligations to disclose certain types of evidence to the prosecution.

The jury selection process typically occurs a few days before the trial begins. Potential jurors are questioned by both the defense and prosecution to assess their suitability for the case. The timeline for jury selection can vary, but it generally takes one to three days.

Negotiations and plea bargaining offer critical opportunities to resolve a criminal case without going to trial. These discussions typically occur after the initial pretrial motions and evidence review phases. During this period, the defense and prosecution negotiate potential plea deals, which may involve the defendant pleading guilty to lesser charges or receiving a reduced sentence in exchange for avoiding trial. These negotiations can take place over several weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the case and the willingness of both parties to compromise

The Criminal Trial Process in Wyoming

A criminal trial begins with opening statements from both the prosecution and defense. This phase typically occurs on the first day of the trial and can last from a few minutes to an hour or more for each side. During opening statements, each party outlines their case, presenting a roadmap of the evidence and arguments they intend to introduce. This is not the time for detailed evidence presentation but rather for setting the stage and framing the narrative for the jury.

The presentation of evidence is the core of the trial process and can last a few days or several weeks. After each witness testifies during the presentation of evidence, the opposing side has the opportunity to cross-examine them. The prosecution presents its case first, aiming to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes introducing physical evidence, expert testimony, and witness accounts. After the prosecution rests, the defense presents its case, which may involve countering the prosecution’s evidence, presenting alibi witnesses, and introducing exculpatory evidence.

Once all evidence has been presented and witnesses examined, the trial moves to closing arguments. Both the prosecution and defense summarize their cases, highlighting key evidence and aiming to persuade the jury. Closing arguments typically last from a few hours to a full day. After closing arguments, the jury will deliberate on a verdict. If they are unable to reach a decision, the judge may declare a hung jury, and the prosecution will decide if they wish to retry the case with a new jury.

The sentencing phase occurs after a defendant is found guilty, either through a plea deal or trial verdict. This phase can take place immediately following the verdict or be scheduled for a later date, usually within a few weeks. During sentencing, the judge considers various factors, including the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and any mitigating circumstances.

Both the defense and prosecution may present arguments or evidence to influence the judge’s decision. Victims or their families may also provide impact statements. The sentencing phase timeline varies, often taking a few hours to a full day, depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence presented.

Aggressive Legal Defense From an Experienced Campbell County Defense Lawyer

Steven Titus & Associates, P.C. is available to take your call any time 24/7. As a former state public defender, Steven Titus is highly familiar with the Wyoming criminal justice system. He will advise you on the best strategy moving forward with your case and fight to protect your freedom throughout the legal process.

Call (307) 257-7800 to schedule a FREE case review today.

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