The legal process that follows criminal charges involves many more steps than your run-of-the-mill traffic citation. The first thing to do after being charged with a crime is to understand the necessary legal procedures you’ll need to take.
Take a look at these steps to better set your expectations for what’s to come and how to handle it.
Step 1: Being arrested
Many people have a vague idea of what being arrested means. If you are pulled over in your car by an officer, an arrest isn’t made unless the officer detains you and transports you to a holding facility.
A number of procedures are required in order for an arrest to be conducted properly. During the time of the arrest, you are not required to answer any questions the police officer asks. You may elect a lawyer to speak on your behalf in order to make sure your thoughts are expressed appropriately. This may help you avoid mistakenly admitting fault.
Step 2: Choosing to charge
A police officer only needs probable cause to make an arrest. So, the police officer may choose to release a defendant, unless the action is not permitted under the police department’s policy.
Oftentimes, law enforcement will interview the detainee and witnesses to gather more evidence for charges. These interviews may also discern if and for how much bond, otherwise known as bail, will be set for.
If bond is posted, the individual will be released from custody and given a court date up to 60 days following the arrest. Otherwise, the individual can be detained up to 30 days until he or she may appear in front of a judge for a preliminary hearing.
If there is not enough probable cause to charge the detainee with a crime, the person may be released. Otherwise, charges may be pressed. Generally, law enforcement must file misdemeanor charges within 18 months or felony charges within three years. However, some exceptions may apply to certain crimes.
Step 3: Arraignment
The defendant is not required to attend the preliminary hearing, which will establish the evidence that the state has for probable cause of the arrest. Following this hearing comes the arraignment, which is when a defendant can enter a plea.
Step 4: Pre-trial and trial
Not guilty pleas will move forward into the pre-trial and then the trial. The pre-trial allows your lawyer and the prosecutor to submit evidence to the courts for the trial. The trial, itself, will require a jury or judge to listen to the details of the case and come to a conclusion and sentence.
The most important step
Gaining legal counsel is important in order to address the conduct and conclusion of all of these steps. A lawyer can help answer further questions about your charges to ensure that you understand your rights, the specific details of the process as they apply to your case and your options to fight for the best outcome possible.
If you are facing criminal charges, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case. We’re available 24/7 by email, text or phone call.