No matter the circumstance, each and every criminal case will begin with an arrest. An arrest can either be an actual physical arrest, i.e. where you are put in handcuffs and taken down to the county jail, or an officer may decide to issue a Notice to Appear in Court rather than do an actual physical arrest. When an officer does an actual physical arrest, you will be taken to a jail facility and will be processed and booked, i.e. searched, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. You may first be taken to a holding facility or a substation before actually reaching the county jail. Once this process occurs, bond may be set, which if posted, you will be released or "bonded out," and a court date will be set. If a bond was not set, or if the bond is too high and one can simply not afford to pay it, there will be a proceeding or a "First Appearance in Court" within 24 hours from the time you were arrested.
While at "First Appearance," the judge will read to you the charges for which you were arrested, the bond amount, and the judge will appoint a public defender if you cannot afford private counsel and request for a public defender to be appointed to represent you. At this time, it will be decided by the Court whether or not there is sufficient probable cause to detain the arrestee. There may or may not be a bond hearing at this time to decide if bond as initially set was appropriate, or if a bond should be set. After your First Appearance occurs, the Clerk of Court will send the arresting affidavit to the State Attorney's Office, in which the State Attorney's Office will appoint a prosecutor to be assigned the case. From here, the prosector will decide if the charges you were arrested on should be pursued and prosecuted against you. The Prosecutor can remove charges and/or add new charges. If the prosecutor choses to add new charges, you may have to be booked on these charges, and this can complicate things, potentially leading to another bond having to be posted.
The next step, which normally occurs somewhere around 21 days to a month after the date of arrest, is the arraignment. Prior to the arraignment, your lawyer should file what is known as a Notice of Appearance, Waiver of Appearance, Plead Guilty or Not Guilty, and may request for discovery. Sometimes in certain instances, the State Attorney will request that the arraignment be rescheduled to the 30th day after the arrest to allow more time to decide what, if any, charges to file. If after the 30th day the State is still not ready, they may ask for one more reschedule or the arraignment to the 33rd day after the arrest. At this point, if not charges are filed within 33 days after the arrest, the arrestee will be released from custody on their own recognizance. It is critical that you have your lawyer with you at this stage, as just going in front of a judge and planning to plead guilty can lead to grave consequences. Always consult with your attorney to discuss your case and to understand what it is exactly you may be facing, both charge and punishment wise.
After the arraignment is the discovery phase of your case. The Discovery Phase should always start with a demand by your attorney for any and all evidence and paperwork that the state has regarding the case and the charges against you. This is crucial, as this stage may open doors for your Attorney to file motions, including but not limited to, Motions to Dismiss your case, Motions to Suppress Evidence, Motions in Limine, and many other procedural tactics that a good attorney may be able to use to help your case at trial. Upon a demand for evidence to the state, the prosecutor will have 15 days to respond to the demand. This process is very important, and it is imperative that your attorney make sure to review all evidence that is presented by the prosecutor, as sometimes this includes evidence that may exculpate you from guilt and exonerate you.
After the discovery phase is complete, the Court will set a Sounding, or a Pretrial Conference. The Sounding is normally scheduled around 10-15 days before the Defendant's trial date. The Sounding is to determine whether the State and defense will be ready for trial on the scheduled trial date. At this time, you may receive plea offers, and should always speak with your attorney regularly during this time so you are aware of your options and what is happening with your case. If you decide that you do not want to take a plea offer, or you and your attorney believe that a plea offer is not in your best interest, then the next step will be a trial.
Trial is the last phase of a criminal case, not counting appeals. The trial is where the rules of evidence apply, and where examinations of witnesses, cross-examination of witnesses, exhibits, etc. are introduced into the Court. The judge is the finder of law, and the jury is the finder of fact. This means that the judge determines the laws and which laws to apply, and the jury decides if based on the facts presented, the prosecution has proven their case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course, the prosecution will have an opportunity to prove their case, as the defense will have their chance to prove their defense. The jury will then be read jury instructions from the Court, and will then deliberate and decide whether the prosecution proved the Defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nasseh | Sirounis Law dedicates their every effort to ensure the best results to your case. At Nasseh | Sirounis Law, it doesn't matter if you're facing a serious felony or a minor traffic violation, you'll get the most vigorous and aggressive representation at an affordable rate.