3 Steps in a Criminal Case
Criminal Defense Lawyer
In movies and television shows, a criminal trial happens immediately after an arrest and sentencing occurs immediately after a jury reaches a verdict. While there is a law that states that a criminal trial must happen in a timely manner, the process isn’t quite that quick like a criminal defense lawyer from a law firm like Tuttle Law, P.A., can explain. Fictional criminal law proceedings are compressed to amp up the drama and fit the time constraints. In reality, the entire process of a criminal case can last many months and go through the following steps.
An arraignment is a formal proceeding during which the charges against you are explained and you have the opportunity to enter a plea in response. If you plead guilty or no contest, the court typically skips ahead to the sentencing. However, if you plead not guilty, you are entitled to a trial, and that means several additional steps.
2. Preliminary Hearings and Pre-Trial Motions
Before a criminal trial can take place, the existence of probable cause has to be established. In other words, the court has to determine how likely it is that you did the crime that you are accused of. This is established through a preliminary hearing. A pre-trial motion is a petition to the court to establish which testimony and evidence will be presented at trial and to resolve any final issues.
For federal charges, a grand jury proceeding takes the place of a preliminary hearing. Individual states can decide whether to require grand jury proceedings or preliminary hearings for certain offenses. Grand jury proceedings and preliminary hearings serve the same purpose, but only the prosecutor testifies before a grand jury, and if the jury decides that there is probable cause, it results in an indictment for you. With a preliminary hearing, both sides get to make arguments and question witnesses. If there is no finding of probable cause, the process stops here.
Under the Constitution of the United States, a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. That means that the burden is on the prosecution to present evidence that shows beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense. Most criminal trials involve a jury made up of 12 people who will hear the evidence and make a decision as to your guilt or innocence through deliberation. If you are found not guilty, the process stops and you are free to go. If you are found guilty, you will receive a punishment through the sentencing process, which may require a separate hearing.
If you accept a plea deal, it means a lighter sentence and a shortening of the process. A criminal defense lawyer can start guiding you through the process. Contact one today.