If you’ve had the good fortune not to have any run-ins with the law, you may be completely oblivious of how a criminal case is conducted other than the snippets and often misrepresentations we get from TV and movies. If you want to learn more about the criminal law system, or you are experiencing legal problems of your own, read on.
Most criminal cases start with an arrest. The person whom the police arrest is called the defendant at this point since they are still defending their innocence. The police take the defendant to jail where there are three possibilities.
The first one is to release the defendant if the prosecutor decides not to press charges. The prosecutor is typically a district attorney, or possibly a city attorney. However, if charges are being pressed, the defendant has two options. If they want to be released from jail until their trial, they can either post bail, or ask to be released without bail, on condition that they appear before the court on a certain date at a certain time. If the defendant isn’t released on bail, they must stay in jail until their trial.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
The defendants aren’t entitled to know all the specifics of the case built around, largely in order to protect the potential witnesses. However, their attorneys do, which is why every defendant is entitled to a legal representative. Your attorney is supposed to advise you on the best course of action and defend you in the trial if your case ever reaches that stage.
First Appearance in Court
Also known as the arraignment, this is the event when the defendant is first told clearly what charges are laid against them and given the right to plea ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’ or ‘no contest’. This last one is also known as ‘nolo contendere’ in Latin and it is very similar to the ‘guilty’ plea. At this point, the judge can set the defendant free until trial, set a bail for them, or order that they are returned to jail to await trial.
Before the Misdemeanor Trial
If the defendant has pleaded ‘not guilty’, the case proceeds. Depending on the severity of the crime, it may lead to a misdemeanor or a felony case. The lead-up to the trial is different for both cases.
In misdemeanor cases, the defense and the prosecution exchange the information they have about the case. The defendant is typically not granted access to the entirety of the information available, but their attorneys are. The attorney can then ask for certain pieces of evidence to be thrown out of the case, or even have the case dismissed. At this point, it is still possible to resolve the case without a trial.
Before the Felony Trial
If the case is recognized as a felony, the situation is more serious. Once the arraignment is done, a preliminary hearing is set by a judge where they need to decide whether there is enough evidence that suggests that the defendant has committed the crime. If they determine that there is not, the case is dismissed.
However, if the judge deems the case against the defendant is credible enough to warrant a trial, the defendant is given another arraignment, where they are updated on any new information and given another chance to enter a plea. After that, a trial date is set and the preparations for a trial begin.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is good to know what awaits you and how the case proceeds. However, you shouldn’t leave your freedom to any chance. Get yourself a good criminal defense attorney, like https://www.monderlaw.com/ and give yourself the best chance of reaching the best possible outcome.