The process that occurs after the filing of criminal charges is likely confusing to the person accused of a crime, leaving the accused individual feeling intimidated or fearful. Facing criminal charges, whether there is one charge or several charges, is a serious situation that has the potential to result in serious consequences. A criminal defense lawyer in Orlando that has years of experience in criminal law, including fighting for defendants in major cases, has the knowledge to help the accused through the complex process that occurs after criminal charges are filed in court.
The Filing of Criminal Charges
Criminal charges are filed in a number of ways. Police officers that respond to a 911 call or other call for assistance often take the person that they believe committed the crime into custody. A complainant often informs police officers that a certain individual committed a crime. A person may find themselves in jail because they happened to be present when a crime was committed or because someone made an accusation against that person. If you state that you committed a crime, chances are that a police officer will take you into custody.
Criminal charges are also filed after an investigation begins, and investigators determine that a particular individual or individuals likely committed a crime. Investigators follow protocol to execute an arrest. This process is similar in both a state and federal investigation.
Filing formal charges against you or your loved one is one of many steps in the process that occurs in a criminal court case. Criminal proceedings are often complex and require someone with knowledge of the law and extensive courtroom experience to help a defendant, including you or your family member, to fight the charges.
What are the First Steps to a Criminal Case?
A person charged with a crime is often taken to jail and charged with the crime. Some cases involve convening a grand jury. A prosecutor presents the facts and basis for the charges to a grand jury. The grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to return an indictment on the accused individual. When the grand jury returns an indictment, a judge issues an arrest warrant. Some people turn themselves in before the arrest takes place.
The arrested person receives notification of their Miranda Rights before being questioned by police officers or detectives assigned to the case. Law enforcement officers take possession of your personal effects, such as any money or other items, upon your arrest. They check your person and your belongings for weapons or evidence of a crime. The police may search your vehicle if they take possession of it.
The Arraignment and Plea
The arraignment is a formal proceeding. The accused person appears before a judge or magistrate either in person or by video camera. The judge reads the charges against you. You have the opportunity to enter a plea to the charges. You may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. The judge enters a plea of “not guilty” if the defendant does not enter a plea at the arraignment.
A criminal attorney helps defendants at the early stages of the court proceedings, not just during the criminal trial. A discussion of bail occurs during the arraignment. The attorney fights for reasonable bail, which is your constitutional right. The prosecution may ask the court to deny bail, particularly if the crime is a homicide or other serious offense. The judge makes the final decision about whether to set bail and the amount of bail. The court then schedules the next hearing date and time.
Discovery and Motions
Discovery is the process by which the defense and prosecution find out about each other’s case. Your attorney learns about the evidence that the prosecution has against you. This includes physical evidence, witness statements or other information that the prosecution plans to use at trial. It is important to note that the U.S. Constitution requires that the prosecution inform the defense about any evidence that may hurt the prosecution’s case. This is called exculpatory evidence.
The prosecution learns about evidence that the defense has, including your own witness statements, and documentation that proves that you were not at the scene of the crime.
The defense and prosecution often present motions before the court. Your attorney may present a motion to suppress evidence. This means that your attorney asks the court not to allow the prosecutor to present the evidence at trial. The judge makes the final ruling on a motion to suppress evidence.
The change of venue motion asks that the court order the case to be tried in another court. The motion often concerns transferring the case to the jurisdiction where the crime actually occurred, or when there is publicity or other reasons that may preclude the defendant from having a fair trial.
The defense sometimes asks for a motion to dismiss the case. This motion goes before the court when the attorney states that there is evidence or facts of the case that warrants dismissal of the charges.
The Plea Bargain
The prosecution and defense often come to an agreement, which results in a plea bargain. This saves court time and prevents a trial.
Entering a plea to a lesser charge avoids the possibility of the defendant being found guilty of the more serious charges. The prosecution and defense often negotiate at various stages and may agree to a plea bargain at any time, including during the trial.
The criminal trial is a complicated process. A defendant that decides to represent themselves likely does not have the experience to navigate the complex nature of a criminal case. The prosecutor has the necessary experience to present cases before the court, to question witnesses and present evidence.
A criminal defense lawyer has the expertise to fight back against the prosecutor during trial, such as objecting to a particular question that the prosecution asks a witness testifying at trial. A seasoned lawyer with experience fighting major cases knows the rights of the defendant, and how to present a case before a judge or jury. When you are charged with a crime, you need an attorney to fight for you, and to obtain the best possible outcome in the case.