During the investigation stage the police gather physical evidence and witness statements to determine if a crime occurred and who committed the crime. Suspects have rights. If you are the target of an investigation, you need an experienced attorney at this stage to protect your rights.
Filing Of Formal Criminal Charges
After the investigation is complete the police submit your case to the local prosecutor (this could be the District Attorney or City Attorney depending on where the crime occurred). At this stage it is critical to have an attorney protecting your rights and fighting for you because an attorney may be able to have the prosecutor hold an office hearing instead of filing formal misdemeanor or felony charges.
Arraignment (First Appearance In Court)
After formal charges are filed you must appear in court for your arraignment on a designated date. During the arraignment the judge will inform you of the charges against you and give you an opportunity to enter a plea to the charge.
NOTE: If you missed your arraignment date a warrant is out for your arrest. Warrants are also issued by the court at the request of the prosecutor and police without any notice to you. If there is a warrant out for your arrest you can be arrested at any time by a police officer and taken to jail.
BAIL & Bail Review Hearing
This is a critical step that many public defenders and private defense attorneys miss. You have a right to a BAIL REVIEW HEARING within 5 days of your arraignment to challenge the bail set. At the arraignment, your attorney should certainly make a motion to modify the amount of your bail and request that you be released O.R. (on your own promise to appear without having to post bail). If you are denied an O.R. release and/or the bail amount set is too high, your attorney should be well versed in the setting and handling of your BAIL REVIEW HEARING.
will fight to have your bail lowered as much as possible.
In all felony cases you have a right to a preliminary hearing before a judge to determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to take your case to trial. This right does not apply in misdemeanor cases. During the preliminary hearing the prosecution presents witnesses against you. The law only allows the defense to present very limited evidence, but it is important to have an attorney to cross-examine the witnesses against you and argue to the court why a dismissal or lesser charge is appropriate in your case.
Arraignment on the Information
After the Preliminary Hearing, another court date will be set to advise you of the charges the prosecution seeks to proceed to trial with. These may be the same as the original charges in the complaint or the prosecution may add charges based on the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.
Pretrial hearings provide an opportunity to make sure all the discovery has been provided by the prosecution. During the pretrial stage, your defense attorney will be allowed to present and illuminate additional information in your favor obtained from defense investigation. Your attorney will discuss and negotiate the best possible resolution for you. Upon the conclusion of pretrial negotiations, you and your defense attorney will speak in detail about the pros and cons of accepting/rejecting the prosecutions offer to settle the case short of an actual jury trial. A determination will be made whether to accept the prosecutor's offer or go forward to trial.
A jury of your peers will be selected. The state prosecutor will first present the case and evidence against you. Then your defense opportunity will have an opportunity to put on evidence, witnesses, exhibits, etc. Eventually, the case and evidence will be turned over to the jury who will decide whether or not the STATE has proven its case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.
NOTE: "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" is proof that leaves the jury firmly convinced that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged. If the jury thinks there is a real possibility that he or she is not guilty, the defendant must be given the benefit of the doubt.