General Order of Events in a Felony Case

A courtroom with the involved parties in a felony case.

A felony case is typically defined as any criminal offense that carries a penalty of imprisonment for one year or more, or in some cases, the death penalty. Felonies are the most serious types of crimes, often involving violence and posing significant harm or danger to society. They encompass some of the gravest offenses, such as first-degree murder or arson. Similar to other types of crimes, felony cases undergo a specific process to reach a final verdict. Understanding the nuances of the legal system involves dissecting a felony case timeline to grasp the procedural requirements, rights, and obligations associated with each stage of the criminal case justice process. This understanding is crucial for individuals to be aware of their rights and the factors that can influence decision-making if they or their loved ones are involved in a felony case. 

TrialLine, a legal timeline software can aid in presenting this information effectively.

What is the Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies?

Crimes that do not rise to the level of a felony case typically fall into one of two categories: misdemeanor or citations. There are two primary distinctions between felonies and misdemeanors which often involve acts of violence. Secondly, the severity of a punishment that a convicted person may receive differs between felony and misdemeanor cases. Given that felony crimes are regarded as more severe than misdemeanors, they are met with harsher penalties.

Moreover, there exists a third possibility known as a “wobbler” which denotes a crime that falls between misdemeanor and felony offenses. The circumstances of the case determine whether the defendant will be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. Essentially, if the crime is non-violent and the defendant did not cause harm to anyone, the court may opt for a punishment akin to a misdemeanor sentence. Conversely, if the crime involved violence, the defendant has a history of repeat offenses, and harm was inflicted during the commission of the crime, the wobble is more likely to result in a penalty resembling those for felony offenses.

Order of Events in a Felony Case Timeline

Themis, symbol of justice close up, highlighting her blindfolded eyes.

Pre-Trial Phase

The pre-trial phase initiates the timeline of a felony case. This stage is critical for establishing the foundation for the trial and ensuring that both the prosecution and defense are sufficiently prepared to present their cases in court.

Pre-Trial Motions

In the case timeline, pre-trial motions encompass a variety of legal maneuvers aimed at shaping the trajectory of the case. These are formal requests presented to the court by either the prosecution or defense attorney, seeking a decision on a particular issue before the trial begins.

Common pre-trial motions include:

  1. Motion to Dismiss: This motion seeks the judge’s dismissal of a charge of the entire case, often due to insufficient evidence or when the alleged facts fail to constitute a crime.
  2. Motion to Suppress: This motion aims to prevent certain statements or evidence from being admitted during the trial. For instance, if the police conducted a search without probable cause, the evidence obtained from that search may be subject to suppression.
  3. Motion for Change of Venue: A request to move the trial to a different location, typically due to concerns about pre-trial publicity. If extensive media coverage has potentially biased the local jury pool, a change of venue may be necessary to ensure the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Discovery Process

The purpose of the discovery process is to prevent unexpected revelations and ensure a fair trial. Within the realm of criminal law, defendants enjoy numerous constitutional rights, including the right to due process. Discovery constitutes a component of procedural due process.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are obligated to engage in reciprocal discovery, which entails the disclosure of certain types of evidence to the opposing party. Failure to disclose such evidence may result in its exclusion from the trial by the court.

Examples of evidence and information that must be disclosed in a felony case include:

  • Relevant physical objects of tangible evidence, such as a murder weapon
  • DNA evidence
  • Police reports
  • Exculpatory evidence
  • Potential witness

Trial Phase

The judge and the defendant in his convict suit in a felony case trial.

The trial phase initiates the trial timeline, during which both the prosecution and defense present evidence, arguments, and witnesses before a judge and jury in a court of law. This phase constitutes the pivotal component of the legal process where the guilt or innocence of the defendant is determined.

Jury Selection

Jury selection also known as voir dire, is the process through which potential jurors are questioned and selected to serve on the jury for the trial. During the jury selection, the judge, prosecution, and defense attorneys ask questions to assess the potential jurors’ impartiality, biases, and ability to serve on the jury fairly and without prejudice.

In the court case timeline, the purpose of jury selection is to ensure that the jury is composed of individuals who can objectively evaluate the evidence presented during the trial and render a verdict based solely on the facts and the law. Attorneys may challenge potential jurors for various reasons, including bias familiarity with the case, or inability to be fair and impartial.

Opening Statements

In a felony case, opening statements mark the initial remarks presented by the attorney representing both the prosecution and the defense as the trial commences. During this phase, each side outlines the case’s facts, offers a glimpse of the evidence to be presented, and presents their interpretation of the case to the judge and the jury.

Opening statements aim to furnish the judge and the jury with a broad understanding of the case and establish the groundwork for the forthcoming presentation of evidence and witness testimony throughout the trial. They do not constitute evidence themselves but rather serve as a guide outlining what each party intends to prove during the trial.

An attorney may utilize trial presentation software during this phase to arrange and exhibit evidence, documents, photographs, videos, and other visual aids lucidly and persuasively to the judge and jury.

Presentation of Evidence

The presentation of evidence constitutes the heart of the trial phase. It involves the introduction and examination of various types of evidence by both the prosecution and the defense to support their respective arguments and prove the defendant’s guilt. It includes:

  • Testimonial Evidence: This involves witness testimony provided by individuals who have direct knowledge of information relevant to the case. Witnesses may include eyewitnesses to the crime, experts in relevant fields, or individuals with knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense. 
    • Documentary Evidence: This includes documents, records, contracts, emails, letters, photographs, and other written or recorded materials that are relevant to the case. Documentary evidence can help establish facts, timelines, and other key elements of the case. This can be presented with the help of court presentation software.
  • Physical Evidence: Physical pieces of evidence include tangible objects, materials, or substances that are directly related to the alleged. It may include weapons, fingerprints, DNA samples, clothing, or other items found at the crime scene.
  • Demonstrative Evidence: This type of evidence is used to help illustrate or demonstrate key points or concepts to the judge and jury. Demonstrative evidence may include charts, diagrams, models, maps, or audiovisual presentations.

Closing Arguments and Jury Deliberation

In closing arguments, lawyers succinctly review their case theories to influence the jury toward a favorable verdict. They summarize crucial points, emphasize important evidence, and explain why the judges should decide in favor of their clients. Lawyers may also point out weaknesses in the opposing party’s case and respond to counter-arguments presented by the opposition. During this stage, lawyers may utilize legal presentation software to highlight key points and recall evidence presented during the trial.

After closing arguments, the judge provides the jury with instructions on relevant laws and legal standards applicable to the case. The jury then convenes in a private deliberation room to discuss the trial evidence and reach a unanimous verdict based on the facts and the law. Once the jury reaches a decision, they return to the courtroom to announce their verdict to the judge and all involved parties in the case.

Post-Trial Phase

The post-trial phase in a felony case pertains to the duration after the trial’s conclusion, which includes the delivery of the verdict by the judge or jury. This phase includes diverse legal procedures and endeavors directed toward managing the aftermath of the trial’s verdict and advancing rehabilitation within the criminal justice system.


Upon a defendant’s conviction, the judge decrees a punishment or penalty. Throughout the sentencing hearing, the judge evaluates numerous aspects, including the gravity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal record, any mitigating or aggravating factors, and input from both the persecution and defense.

Sentencing aims to hold the defendant responsible for their actions, deter future criminal conduct, safeguard the community, and foster rehabilitation. The judge holds the authority to determine the suitable sentence, which could encompass incarceration, fines, probation, community service, restitution to victims, or involvement in rehabilitative programs.

Appeals Process

After a conviction, defendants retain the right to file an appeal to contest the legal validity of the verdict or sentencing outcome. Appellate attorneys meticulously review trial proceedings for instances of legal errors or violations of constitutional rights that could justify appellate relief. The appeals process involves comprehensive legal analysis and argumentation presented before higher courts to overturn, alter, or affirm the trial’s court decision.

Prepare Your Felony Case Timeline Effectively with TrialLine

A felony case timeline presented through TrialLine, a legal timeline software.

Understanding the procedural intricacies of the legal system is imperative for all parties involved in a case, including defendants, attorneys, and jurors. Each stage of a felony case, from arrest and arraignment to trial proceedings and post-trial motions, contributes to the pursuit of justice and due process.

As an attorney representing a defendant, it’s crucial to efficiently prepare and file documents with the court, ensuring effective representation. To identify potential defenses and explore options for reducing or dismissing charges, utilizing legal timeline software is essential. TrialLine offers a powerful solution to streamline case preparation and management, enabling attorneys to create comprehensive case timelines.

Take advantage of a 14-day free trial and schedule a demo with one of our experts to discover how TrialLine can enhance felony case management and preparation for more favorable outcomes.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.