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How does the Criminal Process Work?

When someone is stopped on suspicion of a criminal activity and arrested, that initiates a criminal process to determine whether the person is actually guilty of the crime or not. The initial stop or arrest is followed by a number of other processes as listed below:

  • Arraignment – The initial step after the arrest is an arraignment where the specific charges against the person will be read. It is the first step in the criminal process after the arrest and booking. The offender is required to appear before a judge at the arraignment, typically with their legal counsel. At the arraignment, the judge identifies the person, informs them of the charges they are facing, and will ask whether or not they plead guilty.

In most cases, the person being charged will not enter a guilty plea at the arraignment and the case proceeds forward.

  • Evidence Collection and Investigation – Your attorney will proceed to do a thorough investigation and collect as much evidence as possible and use it to its best advantage on your behalf. If evidence is lacking, the attorney will investigate further to uncover any hidden evidence. Witnesses will be identified along with other mitigating factors that can be used to strengthen your case.
  • Pre-Trial and Trial Work – Techniques like investigation, discovery, and legal motion during the pre-trial phase are used by the attorney to prepare the case for trial. Legal counsel will use effective questioning and cross-examination during the trial phase. During this time, the legal counsel may use presentation of alternate theories of the crime in order to ensure that the case proceeds fairly. Evidence may also be presented to raise any doubts regarding guilt.
  • Appeals – If the outcome of trial looks less desirable to the attorney, they will use their experience to find grounds for filing an appeal and to continue to aggressively fight and defend your case.
  • Plea-bargain Settlement – The prosecuting attorney may propose an agreement to the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange that the prosecutor drop one or more charges, reduce the charge to a lesser one, or recommend a specific sentence which is acceptable to both parties.
  • Trial – If nothing else works, the case may proceed to a jury trial where facts of the case are established. A jury trial helps reach a conclusion regarding the innocence or guilt of the person facing charges.
  • Sentencing – Based on the outcome of the trial, the judge sentences the defendant. In case of infractions and misdemeanors, sentencing usually occurs immediately. Penalties and sentencing may include fines, probation, incarceration, payment of restitution, community service, drug or alcohol counseling or rehabilitation, or a suspension of driving rights. More serious crimes carry heavier fines and penalties.

It is important to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing a criminal charge. The attorney will help ensure the process is quick and your rights are protected throughout the criminal process.

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