The Process of a Criminal Case
Generally, when a person is arrested, the police officer submits a report of the arrest to the district attorney for review. If you are arrested, you must take the following steps: “Six Steps to Follow if You Are Arrested: Survival Guide” The ABC will review the case and if he or she feels that the officer has sufficient proof of the crime, the charges will be filed and The case will be ready to be processed.
At this point, the defendant has five options to be released. Once released, you will have to appear in court for an indictment. (Usually 2-4 weeks after the date you were released). If the defendant remains in custody, he will be transported to court by the facilities of the city or county in which he is detained.
In criminal cases the first appearance is the accusation. The accused will be asked to identify himself. The defendant may have a private counsel present or the court may appoint a public defender.
- If charged with a misdemeanor, the defendant is required to respond to written charges by pleading guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (non-competition).). The judge will prepare the tentative itinerary of the defendant’s appearances. Bail will be established in accordance with county bond amounts. The accused has the right to argue for a reduced bail. If the defendant pleads guilty during the indictment process, the judge may sentence him at that time.
- If the defendant does not plead guilty in the indictment, a previous trial will be coordinated where negotiations on the statement will be discussed with the witnesses and weaknesses / strengths of the case.
- The next step is the trial (by the judge or jury) in which pre-trial petitions and event matters are decided.
- If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence on the defendant that can range from a fine, community service, counseling, jail time, diversion programs, treatment for controlled substance abuse, or a combination of those mentioned.
Cases of Serious Crimes
- If the charge is a felony, the defendant may or may not be required to present a statement or petition in the initial indictment. (The policy of filing a statement in the indictment of a felony is different in each state.)
- As a second step, the judge can set the preliminary hearing. (Not all states have preliminary hearings, some summon a grand jury to find probable cause.)
- As with misdemeanors, the bond is established according to the county’s Bail Amounts. The defendant has the right to argue for bail reduction.
- At the preliminary hearing, the ABC will show the court that there was probably cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant was the person who committed the crime. If the judge feels there is enough preliminary evidence to proceed, then the person will be charged again and open a pretrial conference in which the negotiations of the statement and discussions of the events, witnesses, strengths and weaknesses will be discussed.
- As with misdemeanors, the next step is the trial by the judge or jury where all the pre-trial motions and matters of fact are decided. If the defendant is found guilty at the end of the trial, then the judge will impose the sentence, usually much more severe than that of a misdemeanor offense