A criminal defense lawyer can handle a range of different areas. From DUI Defense, Drug Offenses, MVA Hearings, Domestic Violence and Traffic Violations. These areas obviously are big offenses against you. Most will require jail time, or at a minimum, a hefty fine for your actions. A criminal offense doesn’t always pertain to a huge case, most people when they hear a “criminal case” they think of a OJ Simpson esque trial with Johnny Cochran on the helm. This is not the case.
The stages for a criminal case are very similar to what you’ve heard with the big criminal cases, and the Law and Order: SVU episodes that you may have watched. Once you are arrested, you are able to provide bail to be released from jail, with the promise that you will appear at all scheduled court proceedings. If you do so under your “own recognizance” that means you do not need to post bail, but you have to put in writing that you will appear in all scheduled court appearances.
After bail, you will be scheduled an arraignment where you will plead “guilty” or “not guilty,” Sounds familiar right? Once that is over you will have a preliminary hearing or a grand jury proceeding, this is where a bill of information is created. These hearings are used to establish the existence of probable cause, if there is no probable cause, then no need for the defendant to take the stand. The difference between these two, is that a preliminary hearing questions witnesses and both parties make arguments. The judge will then make the finding of the probable cause. Grand Jury proceedings, they hear only from the prosecutor, the grand jury will then determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed.
Next, quickly there are some pre-trial motions to resolve last minute, final issues on what evidence and testimonies will be admissible at trial. Then finally, the trial begins, which you are probably most familiar with. The prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. And the jury or the judge will make the final decision of guilt or innocence in the case. For a jury, the vote must be unanimous, if they do not, it may result in a mistrial. If the defendant is guilty, the defendant will go to sentencing, where the court will determine the appropriate punishment for the defendant. The defendant can then appeal to a higher court, where the decision can be reversed or re-trialed.
It may seem complex, but this is the correct venue of providing the truth and justice in our society. This process is second nature to a lawyer. Make sure you are guided in the right direction if you are found in this unfortunate decision by calling our offices today!