Unlike personal injury trials, criminal proceedings are one of the most popular things to watch on television. But, even if you’ve seen every episode of Law and Order ever made, you still may face confusion when you’re arrested and accused of a crime.
That’s because the legal processes on television are not completely accurate to real life. In reality, there are 7 steps in a criminal case from the time of the arrest all the way through to the appeal.
An arrest is the first step of the criminal process. If you are accused of a crime, you will be taken into custody.
In order to arrest someone, an officer must prove probable cause. That means that they must have seen you commit a crime or have significant evidence to bring charges against you. Arrests can even happen after a car accident, if the person driving was under the influence, for example.
Arrests can be made on the spot at the scene of a crime or ordered through an arrest warrant from a judge or jury.
Once you are arrested, you will be formally charged with a crime. This is the moment when you will be given detailed information about the circumstances of your alleged crime, which can have harsher penalities if you caused injury or harm to another. You will also be presented with statements from witnesses who can corroborate your involvement in a crime.
The charges will be reviewed by the prosecution who will determine the severity of your charges and present you with that information.
Once you have been charged, you will be brought before a judge for your first court appearance. Typically, your arraignment will take place on the same day you are arrested.
During the arraignment, your charges will be read and you will be given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. You will be advised of your right to counsel and the judge will determine the conditions of your release and set your bail. If your crime is minor, you may be released on your own recognizance.
Before your formal criminal trial, there will be a period of time where both your lawyer and the prosecutor will have time to exchange and review information about your case within the criminal court system. This is a key difference in a personal injury claim, for instance, which are argued in civil courts.
The prosecution has to provide information on what evidence they have before the day of your trial. They also have to reveal who their witnesses will be.
During the pretrial process, various motions and requests for discoveries will be filed. In many cases, this is when a criminal case will end. Either it will be discovered that there is not enough evidence to continue to trial, or a plea agreement will be reached.
In the case of a plea agreement, someone accused of a crime will take a lesser punishment or plead guilty to a lesser crime to avoid the penalties associated with the crime they are charged with.
If your case makes it to trial, this is when your guilt will be determined by a jury of your peers. Potential jurors will be questioned by both the prosecution and defense to determine if they are impartial and can deliver a fair verdict.
Once the jury is selected, opening statements are delivered and the trial begins. Most often, the prosecution will deliver their case first. Then, the defense is given their opportunity to respond. All evidence that the defendant is innocent is presented at this point.
Finally, the jury deliberates to reach a verdict on your guilt or innocence. This can be the most nerve-wracking part of a trial for many people.
If you are found guilty, the judge will sentence you based on your crime. The punishment you face will vary based on the severity of the charge and where the committed the crime as well as other factors.
You could be ordered to pay fines, spend time in prison or jail, attend counseling or rehabilitation, participate in community service, pay restitution, or be on probation.
If you don’t believe your conviction is fair, you have the right to appeal the charges. That means that your case will move to a higher court and another judge will rule based on the facts.
When you’re arrested, the first thing you need to do is find someone you trust to represent you in court.
At Maze Law Offices, we focus on helping our clients navigate the complex process of the trial process, for criminal cases and personal injuries, like car accidents, truck accidents, ATV accidents, motorcycle accidents, and more. We can help you stay calm and confident as you move towards and through your trial.
Let us help you maintain your freedom, contact us for a free consultation today.