So you’ve found yourself in a little bit of trouble and have hired a criminal defense lawyer to help you battle these charges. The court process is an extremely long and drawn out process that may be a little confusing at times. Here’s a breakdown of the essential steps of a criminal case as it moves through the court process:
Typically, the initial contact you have with the criminal justice system is through an arrest being made. Either an officer of the law witnessed you commit a crime, or you had a warrant out for your arrest and got picked up from that. When you are arrested, you are read your rights, and you are then brought before a judge within 24 hours of being arrested. If this was not done in an adequate amount of time, you would have been released.
- Initial Appearance:
Your first appearance in court will be called your Initial Appearance. This is where the judge identifies who you are and informs you of the charges being brought against you. You are also read your rights and told that you have the right to an attorney. At this point, it is determined whether or not you will be paying for your own attorney or if one will need to be appointed for you. After this is decided, the judge will read you the conditions on how and when you will be released from jail. When your initial hearing has commenced, you now have the chance to look into lawyers and see who would best represent you.
- Preliminary Hearing:
In instances where the judge needs to hear initial evidence and testimony from witnesses and the prosecuting attorney, a preliminary hearing will be held. However, if it is determined that you most likely committed the crime you are being accused of, then a preliminary hearing will be skipped and you will be assigned a date for your arraignment.
The next step in the court process is the arraignment. This is a very important step in the process, as it is the point where you, the defendant, will enter into a plea deal. When taking a plea deal, you will either plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest (nolo contendere). If you decide to go with a guilty plea or a no contest, your judge will assign a date to sentence you for the crime. On the other hand, if you enter into a not guilty plea this is where you will be heading to trial. A date will be set and you will be told to show up ready for trial.
The trial is a formal examination of evidence before a judge, and typically before a jury. In order to decide guilt in your case of criminal proceeding. The trail process includes a number of steps, including:
Opening Statements: In the opening statements of the trial, the prosecuting attorney will get a chance to speak first and present their case and findings against you. After the prosecuting attorney has given their opening statement, your lawyer will give an opening statement or comment. They may wait until later in the trial to give the details of your defense.
Witnesses: In order for a witness to testify and be held accountable for what they present to the court, a witness must take an oath or affirmation. Witnesses then will have the chance to testify, then be cross-examined by the opposing side.
Closing Arguments: After all the facts and evidence of the case have been presented, both the prosecutor and your attorney will have a chance to make their closing statements. The prosecutor will go first, then your lawyer will get a chance to address the judge and jury one last time.
Instructing the Jury: Once the closing statements have been made, the judge will instruct the jury on the instructions of the deliberation and the laws that applies to the case.
Jury Deliberations: The next step in the process is the jury deliberations. This is where your fate lies and where you will be found either guilty or not guilty of the charges being brought against you. The jurors will go into a separate deliberating room, choose a foreman to lead the discussion, and review the facts of the case. Once they have reached a verdict, the court will be back in session.
Verdict: Finally, the foreman of the group of jurors will present a written verdict to the judge, and will be read aloud. If you are found not guilty, you will be released immediately. In the unfortunate event that you are found guilty, you will then be assigned a date for sentencing. In the time that you are waiting for your sentencing date, you will most likely remain in custody until your sentencing date.
If you’ve made it to sentencing, you received a guilty verdict, and now will find out how long you will be punished for the crime that you committed. At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor and your lawyer will both give their suggestions on how severe your punishment should be.
The court system can be an incredibly overwhelming and confusing set of processes. If you are in a situation that will take you through this process, having a lawyer can be an incredible benefit to you. Lawyers not only know the system but are extremely educated in how to handle criminal cases. Call Liberty Law Center today if you want to know more about how we can help in cases like yours!