The parties of a criminal trial are to determine whether or not the Defendant has committed the crime he/she was charged with.
A criminal case is brought by the government in the name of The People because a crime is a violation of a law or a rule of conduct, established by the people as a whole to keep order in the community.
A criminal case is usually prosecuted by the county prosecuting attorney, representing the people of the State (or by the city attorney, if the law involved is a city ordinance).
The charges against the Defendant are listed in a document filed before the trial, called an “Information” if the charges are filed by the prosecuting attorney, or an “Indictment” if the charges are made by a grand jury. Most criminal cases are filed by the prosecuting attorney.
An Information or Indictment may include several “Counts” (charges or accusations), but each Count must be stated separately. For example, one Count may charge that the Defendant robbed someone (the Complainant); while a second Count may charge that the Defendant also assaulted the Compla.
After the Information is filed, but before the trial, the Defendant is arraigned–brought before a Judge to be informed of the charges–at which time the Defendant is asked to plead Guilty or Not Guilty to each Count separately.
There are other differences between civil and criminal cases, too many to be discussed in this booklet. The Judge will explain the specific rules governing the trial in which you will participate as a juror. If you do not understand something, or if you have any questions about any of the Judge’s instructions, you are free to ask the Judge for further explanation. In fact it’s your duty to ask.