After Arrest: What's Next? The Criminal Justice System Overview.
If you or a loved one has been arrested, you will have many questions about what is going to happen next.
When an officer arrests a person for a crime, he/she will have a “First Appearance" Hearing within the next business day of arrest.
At that point, the court will decide if there is probable cause for the case to go forward and pretrial release conditions. Pretrial release conditions will include attending all hearings, contacting your attorney regularly and avoiding further law violations.
Bond or “Own Recognizance"
After arrest, the court will set a bond amount or release a person on his/her “own recognizance." A bond is a surety posted with the court to guarantee a person’s future appearance at hearings. A person may post a cash bond, although it is easier to go through a local bonding company.
The Arraignment Hearing is where the court reads the charges and accepts a person’s plea. Usually a person enters a not guilty plea. The court may also review pretrial release conditions. At this point, the court may reduce a person’s bond amount or release the person on his/her own recognizance.
Pretrial Hearings are for misdemeanor cases. At the Pretrial Hearing, the court asks for an update on the case, hears scheduling motions and may even resolve the case with a negotiated settlement.
Omnibus Hearings are for felony cases. At the Omnibus Hearing, the court asks for an update on the case and hears scheduling and discovery motions. The court will not resolve the case at the Omnibus Hearing.
Before trial, the defense attorney and the prosecutor usually engage in plea negotiations. Most cases resolve through negotiations. A negotiated settlement may include the reduction of a charge(s), recommendation for a particular sentence or an alternative disposition. An alternative disposition means resolving the case without a traditional guilty plea and sentence.
A motion is a written request to the court asking for the court to do something. Several examples include continuance, suppression and dismissal motions. The court will hold a hearing to hear evidence and argument on the motion.
Readiness Hearings are for misdemeanor cases. At the Readiness Hearing, the parties tell the court if they are “ready" to go to trial. The court can continue the trial or resolve the case with a negotiated settlement.
Pretrial Conferences are for felony cases. At the Pretrial Conference, the parties tell the court if they are ready for trial. The court may continue the trial but will not resolve the case with a negotiated settlement.
If not resolved through negotiations or motions practice, a case will go to trial.
In misdemeanor cases a jury of six people hears the case. In felony cases a jury of twelve people hears the case.
The jury must determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based only on evidence admitted in trial. The jury’s verdict must be unanimous.
A criminal conviction can carry severe consequences. The consequences of a criminal conviction are determined by the nature of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. Misdemeanor and felony sentencing are completely different.
There are two types of misdemeanors: simple and gross. The maximum sentence on a simple misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The maximum sentence on a gross misdemeanor is 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. In DUI cases, there are mandatory minimum sentences based on the breath test and the defendant’s prior DUI history.
The sentence in a felony case is determined by the Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines set forth a standard range sentence for every offense based on the defendant’s criminal history. In most cases, the court must impose a standard range sentence.
In addition to jail time, probation and fines, there are other consequences to a criminal conviction. A felony conviction results in the loss of voting rights and the right to bear arms. A conviction for a domestic violence crime results in the loss of your right to bear arms. A DUI conviction results in the loss of your driver’s license.