A conviction is a judge or jury decision in which someone is found guilty of committing a crime. The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal, in which the judge or jury determines that the defendant is not guilty of the crime. After a conviction, the criminal can be sentenced in accordance with sentencing guidelines.
In order for a conviction to be reached, the case has to be presented before the court, and certain standards must be met. These standards are quite high for criminal trials, and less so for civil wrongs. In a jury trial, the judge usually instructs the jury to make sure that they are familiar with the standards for conviction, so that these standards can be weighed in deliberations. When a trial takes place before a judge alone, the judge must consider the legal standard while deliberating and reaching a decision.
During the trial, positions from both sides are presented, and judge and jury have an opportunity to personally examine evidence. The trial must be conducted in a way which meets legal guidelines, as a conviction can be overturned if it can be proved that interference which might have blocked access to due process and fair justice occurred during the trial. Since all parties involved have an interest in not having to repeat the trial because of events which lead it to be declared a mistrial, they are usually careful to comply with all regulations which pertain to the conduct and practice of a trial.
Usually, there is a break between conviction and sentencing. The judge must deliberate on the facts of the case to arrive at a sentence. While awaiting sentencing, the criminal is held in custody, and may be given credit for time served, both during this period and during the trial if he or she was kept in custody during the trial. A sentence can include time in prison, fines, and other reparations, depending on the nature of the crime and the judicial standards which govern sentencing.
Most criminal justice systems have a number of measures in place which are designed to prevent miscarriages of justice, in which people who are innocent are convicted of crimes. However, it is recognized that such events can occur. As a result, most justice systems have an appeals system. People who are convicted have the right to appeal, and can usually take the appeal through a series of higher courts to fight the conviction.