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In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence) in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court. The tribunal, which may occur before a judge, jury, or other designated trier of fact, aims to achieve a resolution to their dispute.
Where the trial is held before a group of members of the community, it is called a jury trial. Where the trial is held solely before a judge, it is called a bench trial.
Hearings before administrative bodies may have many of the features of a trial before a court, but are typically not referred to as trials.
An appellate proceeding is also generally not deemed a trial, because such proceedings are usually restricted to review of the evidence presented before the trial court, and do not permit the introduction of new evidence.
Trials can also be divided by the type of dispute at issue.
A criminal trial is designed to resolve accusations brought (usually by a government) against a person accused of a crime. In common law systems, most criminal defendants are entitled to a trial held before a jury. Because the state is attempting to use its power to deprive the accused of life, liberty, or property, the rights of the accused afforded to criminal defendants are typically broad. The rules of criminal procedure provide rules for criminal trials.
A civil trial is generally held to settle lawsuits or civil claims—non-criminal disputes. In some countries, the government can both sue and be sued in a civil capacity. The rules of civil procedure provide rules for civil trials.
Although administrative hearings are not ordinarily considered trials, they retain many elements found in more "formal" trial settings. When the dispute goes to judicial setting, it is called an administrative trial, to revise the administrative hearing, depending on the jurisdiction. The types of disputes handled in these hearings is governed by administrative law and auxiliarily by the civil trial law.
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Labor law (also known as employment law) is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. As such, it mediates many aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees. In Canada, employment laws related to unionized workplaces are differentiated from those relating to particular individuals. In most countries however, no such distinction is made. However, there are two broad categories of labour law. First, collective labour law relates to the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and union. Second, individual labour law concerns employees' rights at work and through the contract for work. The labour movement has been instrumental in the enacting of laws protecting labour rights in the 19th and 20th centuries. Labour rights have been integral to the social and economic development since the industrial revolution.
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There are two primary systems for conducting a trial.
In common law systems, an adversarial or accusatory approach is used to adjudicate guilt or innocence. The assumption is that the truth is more likely to emerge from the open contest between the prosecution and the defense in presenting the evidence and opposing legal arguments with a judge acting as a neutral referee and as the arbiter of the law. In several jurisdictions in more serious cases, there is a jury to determine the facts, although some common law jurisdictions have abolished the jury trial. This polarizes the issues, with each competitor acting in its own self-interest, and so presenting the facts and interpretations of the law in a deliberately biased way. The intention is that through a process of argument and counter-argument, examination-in-chief and cross-examination, each side will test the truthfulness, relevancy, and sufficiency of the opponent's evidence and arguments. To maintain fairness, there is a presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. Critics of the system argue that the desire to win is more important than the search for truth. Further, the results are likely to be affected by structural inequalities. Those defendants with resources can afford to hire the best lawyers. Some trials are—or were—of a more summary nature, as certain questions of evidence were taken as resolved (see handhabend and backberend).
In civil law legal systems, the responsibility for supervising the investigation by the police into whether a crime has been committed falls on an examining magistrate or judge who then conducts the trial. The assumption is that the truth is more likely to emerge from an impartial and exhaustive investigation both before and during the trial itself. The examining magistrate or judge acts as an inquisitor who directs the fact-gathering process by questioning witnesses, interrogating the suspect, and collecting other evidence. The lawyers who represent the interests of the State and the accused have a limited role to offer legal arguments and alternative interpretations to the facts that emerge during the process. All the interested parties are expected to co-operate in the investigation by answering the magistrate or judge's questions and, when asked, supplying all relevant evidence. The trial only takes place after all the evidence has been collected and the investigation is completed. Thus, most of the factual uncertainties will already be resolved, and the examining magistrate or judge will already have resolved that there is prima facie of guilt. Critics argue that the examining magistrate or judge has too much power in that he or she will both investigate and adjudicate on the merits of the case. Although lay assessors do sit as a form of jury to offer advice to the magistrate or judge at the conclusion of the trial, their role is subordinate. Further, because a professional has been in charge of all aspects of the case to the conclusion of the trial, there are fewer opportunities to appeal the conviction alleging some procedural error.
A judge may cancel a trial prior to the return of a verdict; legal parlance designates this as a mistrial.
A judge may declare a mistrial due to:
A declaration of a mistrial generally means that a court must hold a retrial on the same subject.
Some other kinds of processes for resolving conflicts are also expressed as trials. For example, the United States Constitution requires that, following the impeachment of the President, a judge, or another federal officer by the House of Representatives, the subject of the impeachment may only be removed from office by a trial in the Senate.
In earlier times disputes were often settled through a trial by ordeal, where parties would have to endure physical suffering in order to prove their righteousness; or through a trial by combat, in which the winner of a physical fight was deemed righteous in their cause.
The adversarial system or adversary system is a legal system used in the common law countries where two advocates represent their parties' case or position before an impartial person or group of people, usually a jury or judge, who attempt to determine the truth and pass judgment accordingly. It is in contrast to the inquisitorial system used in some civil law systems where a judge investigates the case.
Jury instructions, directions to the jury, or judge's charge are legal rules that jurors should follow when deciding a case. They are a type of jury control procedure to support a fair trial.
A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury makes a decision or findings of fact. It is distinguished from a bench trial in which a judge or panel of judges makes all decisions.
Criminal procedure is the adjudication process of the criminal law. While criminal procedure differs dramatically by jurisdiction, the process generally begins with a formal criminal charge with the person on trial either being free on bail or incarcerated, and results in the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. Criminal procedure can be either in form of inquisitorial or adversarial criminal procedure.
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Juries developed in England during the Middle Ages, and are a hallmark of the Anglo-American common law legal system. They are still commonly used today in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries whose legal systems are descended from England's legal traditions.
Jury nullification (US) or a perverse verdict (UK) generally occurs when members of a criminal trial jury believe that a defendant is guilty, but choose to acquit the defendant anyway because the jurors also believe that the law itself is unjust, that the prosecutor has misapplied the law in the defendant's case, or that the potential punishment for breaking the law is too harsh. Some juries have also refused to convict due to their own prejudices in favour of the defendant.
An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court, or a part of the court, is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. This is distinct from an adversarial system, in which the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense. Inquisitorial systems are used primarily in countries with civil legal systems, such as France and Italy, as opposed to common law systems.
In common law jurisdictions, an acquittal certifies that the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is simply abandoned by the prosecution. The finality of an acquittal is dependent on the jurisdiction. In some countries, such as the United States, an acquittal operates to bar the retrial of the accused for the same offense, even if new evidence surfaces that further implicates the accused. The effect of an acquittal on criminal proceedings is the same whether it results from a jury verdict or results from the operation of some other rule that discharges the accused. In other countries, the prosecuting authority may appeal an acquittal similar to how a defendant may appeal a conviction.
In United States law, a motion is a procedural device to bring a limited, contested issue before a court for decision. It is a request to the judge to make a decision about the case. Motions may be made at any point in administrative, criminal or civil proceedings, although that right is regulated by court rules which vary from place to place. The party requesting the motion may be called the movant, or may simply be the moving party. The party opposing the motion is the nonmovant or nonmoving party.
Prejudice is a legal term with different meanings when used in criminal, civil, or common law. Often the use of prejudice in legal context differs from the more common use of the word and thus has specific technical meanings implied by its use.
A trial which is observed by trial judge without being partial is a fair trial. Various rights associated with a fair trial are explicitly proclaimed in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as numerous other constitutions and declarations throughout the world. There is no binding international law that defines what is not a fair trial; for example, the right to a jury trial and other important procedures vary from nation to nation.
A bench trial is a trial by judge, as opposed to a trial by jury. The term applies most appropriately to any administrative hearing in relation to a summary offense to distinguish the type of trial. Many legal systems use bench trials for most or all cases or for certain types of cases.
The court system of Canada forms the judicial branch of government, formally known as "The Queen on the Bench", which interprets the law and is made up of many courts differing in levels of legal superiority and separated by jurisdiction. Some of the courts are federal in nature, while others are provincial or territorial.
The Judiciary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is the judicial branch of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Under the Basic Law of Hong Kong, it exercises the judicial power of the Region and is independent of the executive and legislative branches of the Government. The courts in Hong Kong hear and adjudicate all prosecutions and civil disputes, including all public and private law matters.
The Criminal Court of the City of New York is a court of the New York State Unified Court System in New York City that handles misdemeanors and lesser offenses, and also conducts arraignments and preliminary hearings in felony cases.
Jury selection is the selection of the people who will serve on a jury during a jury trial. The group of potential jurors is first selected from among the community using a reasonably random method. Jury lists are compiled from voter registrations and driver license or ID renewals. From those lists, summonses are mailed. A panel of jurors is then assigned to a courtroom.
The judicial system of Israel consists of secular courts and religious courts. The law courts constitute a separate and independent unit of Israel's Ministry of Justice. The system is headed by the President of the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice.
A French cour d'assises or Assize Court is a criminal trial court with original and appellate limited jurisdiction to hear cases involving defendants accused of felonies, or crimes in French. It is the only French court consisting in a jury trial.
There are three types of juries in the United States: criminal grand juries, criminal petit juries, and civil juries. In the United States Constitution, juries are mentioned in Article Three and the Fifth, the Sixth, and the Seventh Amendments. Juries are not available in courts of American Samoa established pursuant to the Constitution of American Samoa.
France's criminal legal system derived from Roman law is typically characterized by the European continent. It is not only a feudal system in the Middle Age, but also a representative of the civil law system. France is committed to the judicial system which was gradually established after the Revolution of French in the late 18th century. From beginning of the 19th century to nowadays, Napoleon codified a series of significant rules and established the common court system, administrative court system as well as independent judicial system which formed a unified modern judicial system.
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