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What is a Conviction?

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A conviction occurs when a judge or jury declares a suspect guilty of a crime of which he or she has been accused. There is a process that must be followed for the conviction to be arrived at. In criminal cases, a conviction is a judgment by a jury or judge that considers a person guilty for the crime of which he or she is charged.

Determining Guilt

In the United States, someone who is arrested for a crime is innocent until proven guilty. This means that the person is legally still a suspect or a defendant, not a guilty party. Additionally, all citizens of the United States who are charged with a crime are entitled to a fair trial. In order for the trial to be considered fair, all courtroom procedures must be accurately followed. If not, the case could be declared a mistrial and tried somewhere else.

Trial Procedure

When somebody is suspected of committing a crime, he or she is arrested, then charged for the crime. This charge must contain all details of the case, including the suspect’s name, location of crime and time of offense. The case then goes to trial, where a jury or judge must make a determination on the defendant’s guilt.

The defendant may or may not appear at trial, a defense plea is made and then evidence is presented to defend the suspect. During this process, the prosecution must make a compelling case of the defendant’s need to be charged, complete with facts and evidence. At this point, after both cases are made, a conviction is given or the defendant is acquitted. After the conviction, there is a sentencing phase that lays out the penalty for the conviction.


  • A conviction can be appealed to a higher court if a serious flaw in the criminal proceedings can be proven.
  • Convictions also can refer to pleas of “guilty” or “no contest”.
  • In minor misdemeanors, a summary conviction refers to a determination of guilt in which a jury is not involved.
  • The prosecution must prove a number of things before a conviction is issued. This includes proving the crime was committed with no reasonable doubt.
  • The judge often will provide a definition of guilt and the conditions for serving a conviction to the jury.
  • Prosecutors also have the option of working out plea deals with the defendant. In this case, a conviction is guaranteed, but the penalty is softened for the defendant.

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