Criminal Law: What to Expect in Court

Entering a courtroom for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the legal system and all its complexities. At Combs Waterkotte, we’re here to help alleviate anxiety and help you understand what to expect walking into a criminal court.

Call an experienced criminal lawyer at Combs Waterkotte right now at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online. We provide clients an initial one-on-one, confidential consultation with our expert defense attorneys, who have a combined 40 years of experience working criminal cases in St. Louis and throughout Missouri.

While we do everything in our power to avoid going to criminal court, we’re here for you when it happens. Here, we’ll guide you through the key elements of what to expect in court.

Criminal Law: What to Expect in Criminal Court

A criminal case begins when you are arrested for a crime – whether it was a misdemeanor, citation, or felony. Depending on the severity, and following your arrest, you could possibly face several stages of criminal court, including:


This is your initial court appearance where:

  • You get a written accusation which comprises all the charges you’re accused of
  • You are asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest
  • The judge hears/considers any matters relating to bail
  • The judge sets dates for the preliminary hearing, pretrial conference, and the trial

Preliminary Hearing

Here, the judge decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence or probable cause for the case to go to trial. These are the three most common outcomes of a preliminary hearing:

  • The judge decides to dismiss your case entirely based on insufficient evidence
  • The judge decides to reduce your charges to a less serious offense
  • The judge decides that your case is going to trial

Pretrial Motions and Hearings

This is where we meet with the judge and the prosecution to discuss a fair resolution to your case, considering your criminal history and the seriousness of the crime. Here, your choice of a Combs Waterkotte criminal lawyer comes to the forefront as we present a mitigation package – including letters and character statements from friends, family members, and esteemed members of the community. We might also argue legal issues with the prosecution, such as the admission of evidence or suppression of witnesses or statements.

Discovery Phase

This phase involves us investigating the evidence the prosecution plans to present. This includes exchanging witness statements, police reports, and any other relevant documents. Discovery can prevent any surprises at trial, narrow the issues that are being disputed, and even help us reach a resolution out of court instead of going through with trial. Call us as soon as possible at (314) 900-HELP or reach out to us online in order to discuss the specifics of your case.

Jury Trial

There are multiple steps to a jury trial, including:

  • Potential jurors enter the court
  • Your expert defense attorneys, along with the judge and the prosecution, question the jurors during jury selection or voir dire
  • The judge considers all evidence
  • Your criminal defense lawyers and the prosecution make opening statements
  • The prosecution presents its case, calling witnesses
  • Your attorneys will cross-examine witnesses
  • Once prosecution has finished, we’ll present our case and your side of the story
  • We will call witnesses and present our evidence
  • Both sides will make closing arguments
  • The judge explains to jurors how to perform their duties before deliberating


After the jury returns with its verdict, it is time for sentencing. This is only decided by the judge, taking into account:

  • Your criminal history
  • The circumstances of the crime and the arrest
  • The aggravating and mitigation factors related to the case


If we are unhappy with the judge’s sentence we can file a Notice of Appeal, which is due no more than 10 days after sentencing. For it to be successful, this appeal should be based on legal errors or new evidence.

Criminal Law: What to Expect in Court | Criminal Defense Attorneys | Combs Waterkotte

Trust the Criminal Lawyer Team at Combs Waterkotte

From arraignment to sentencing, each stage of the criminal justice process presents unique challenges and opportunities for your expert defense team at Combs Waterkotte. We help you navigate the complexities of criminal court and provide guidance throughout the proceedings, giving you greater confidence and clarity.

Call us right away at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online for a free, no-strings-attached case review with a skilled criminal lawyer.