What is the basic timeline of the criminal law process? What can I expect at each step? (Madeline Porter)
Well, in short, the answer is it depends, but typically, the criminal law process, for adult criminal cases is going to follow this timeline, more or less. First there is going to be an investigation. That might be someone making a police report. Then the police show up, they might talk to you then, they might do follow up investigation, maybe ask you to come down to the police station for an interview, but that’s typically going to be the first step in an investigation. Then, if the police feel like there’s enough evidence, or if they feel like they have probable cause to make an arrest in a case and move forward, then they will either make an arrest, which they can do onsite, or they can go to a judge and get a warrant for your arrest. After that, you’re going to be placed under arrest kind of like it sounds, and then you go through the steps to try to get out of jail, if you can. After that, the next step is that the case will be brought to the District Attorney’s office, and they’re going to evaluate the case, on a case by case basis, and decide if they want to proceed with the case or if they don’t. And then if you have a misdemeanor case, the DA’s office can file your case in or if it’s a felony case, the DA’s office will present it to the grand jury, and then the grand jury, they basically get to decide if they want to go forward with the case or not. If they want to go forward, then they are going to issue a true bill, and that means that your case is indicted. Or they issue a no bill which means that the case basically gets dismissed and goes away. Now, if your case is filed in for a misdemeanor or indicted for a felony, the next step is typically going to be an arraignment hearing. And at that hearing, that’s when you are kind of officially told what you are formally being charged with, and that’s important because a lot of times the thing that you are charged with and the thing, I guess charged with when you’re arrested, and the thing that you end up being prosecuted for in the court system, they can be different. And that can happen for any number of reasons like on a DWI case. Sometimes a higher blood alcohol concentration or breath alcohol concentration that’s going to increase the level of offense, so that could happen. Or, they might find that you have a prior conviction for a certain offense that might change things. There are a ton of different reasons why that can happen, but when you’re arraigned, that is when you find out what they kind of landed on, what the official charge is. And that’s also often the first time you get to ask the court for a court appointed attorney. It’s the first time you’re typically going in front of a judge. Next, you’re usually going to be set for a pretrial hearing. That’s a time when you go to court with your attorney, if you have one, and if there are any pretrial motions before the court, the court will hear those at that time. That can be maybe for a bond hearing issue or if you have a motion to suppress or a motion in limine or other pretrial motions. Or if maybe we just want to issue a subpoena to get more evidence, that’s the time to let the court hear those concerns and address them. Next, there might be a plea setting. That’s your chance the enter a plea of guilty, if you choose to, or to enter a plea of not guilty. After that, you’re set for a jury trial or a bench trial. A bench trial is a trial where the judge gets to decide, and a jury trial, like is sounds, is a trial where the jury gets to decide what happens. So those are the basic steps in the criminal law process for adult cases. At any point in this entire process, it is super super critical to have a good attorney to help you at every step of this process. It’s never too early to have an attorney, but it can be too late. So, give us a call and we’ll try to walk you through the process and help you out with your case.