What Is the Process of a Criminal Case?
If you are ever involved in a criminal case, you will go through the criminal justice system that ultimately determines your sentence. As a criminal defense lawyer in Vero Beach, FL from a firm like Tuttle Law, P.A. can explain, the process for a criminal case varies from state to state, but generally, it follows a predictable progression.
What Leads to a Criminal Charge?
The first thing that happens in any criminal case is an investigation conducted by an officer of the law. For example, if an officer notices your car driving erratically on the road, they will investigate to see if a crime has been committed such as operating under the influence.
If the officer determines that there is probable cause to pull you over or stop you, he or she may arrest the suspect. Probable cause—an identifiable reason to suspect that a crime has been committed—is necessary if an officer is to arrest you. Suspicion in itself is not sufficient.
What Happens If You’re Charged?
Soon after you’re arrested and charged, you will be granted an initial hearing in front of a judge. The purpose of this process is to inform you of the charges against you and your rights. The judge may take your plea at this time, determine bail, arrange for a public defender to represent you if you can not afford a lawyer, and set the dates for future court proceedings.
The plea bargain stage is critical in any criminal case. This is when the defense and prosecution choose whether to resolve the case without going to trial. Practically, this is when you choose whether to plead guilty or no contest to a limited charge; in exchange, the prosecution will drop other charges that, if you were to be found guilty in a trial, would lead to a more severe sentence.
What Happens If You Plead Guilty or No Contest?
In most states, if you plead guilty to a felony charge you are entitled to a preliminary hearing. The prosecutor will present their case to a judge who will determine if your case has enough probable cause to warrant a trial.
If the jury finds you guilty or you plead guilty you will be sentenced. You may be able to appeal the sentence if you and your attorney decide errors were made during the trial process that improperly led to you being found guilty.
If you are arrested, you might want to hire a lawyer right away. A lawyer can help you through each step of the criminal justice process and work to reduce your sentence as much as possible. If you are arrested for a crime and can afford it, hire a criminal justice lawyer to defend you.