Understanding How a Criminal Case Proceeds Through the Courts
There are three types of legal proceedings that move through the court, and each is very different. As a criminal defense lawyer, like one from a firm like Tuttle Law, P.A. can explain, there are civil, administrative, and criminal cases, and sometimes there are combinations of different types. The following information can help you understand the main stages of a standard criminal case.
The Case Begins
Sometimes the case begins with an arrest, but other times it can be initiated by a criminal investigation from the prosecutor’s office into the actions or inactions of a person. There are often crime scene investigations, warrants, photos, DNA collection, and sometimes physical exams. This is also the time a defendant will be told they have a right to an attorney.
The Court Appearance
Once probable cause has been established in connection to the crime, an arrest can be made, or an accused can be summoned to court. After an arrest, there are only three days until charges must be filed. If a summons to appear is sent, there is time for filing of charges, determining bail, and jurisdiction can be established.
The Criminal Case
Next comes a hearing in which the defendant is required to plead guilty or not guilty. If an attorney is present, a continuance is often requested. This hearing is called an arraignment and begins the actual criminal case against the defendant. If a plea of not guilty is reported, a trial must usually begin within six months.
The Investigation Begins
Most courts require a reciprocal discovery between the plaintiff and defendant during criminal cases; however, this is not always the case. Interestingly, the defense team is almost always allowed to examine what evidence the prosecution plans on using at trial. This is also the time when motions between the parties begin to be flung back and forth. This could include:
- Motion to Dismiss
- Motion to Amend Charges
- Motion to Qualify Expert Witness
- Motion for Protective Order
- Motion to Suppress Evidence
Each motion requires a hearing, and this can drag trials on for many months.
The Trial Commences
Once a jury is called, the trial can begin. For criminal trials, that generally means a jury of 12 members and at least four impaneled alternatives. The trial may be a short proceeding, or it can drag on for many months; however, the parties can choose to accept a plea agreement anytime prior to the issuance of the court’s verdict in the case.
The Criminal System
If you are ever charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. From arrest through discovery to sentencing, your attorney can help you through the system. You’ll be glad to have a qualified and experienced shoulder to lean on.