The investigation can be a very quick stage that takes less than a day or it can be drawn out and take months. The timing of this stage depends on whether you were arrested at the scene of the crime. If you were arrested, the investigation stage ends (essentially) at that point. However, if you are not arrested right away the investigatory phase of your case can last longer. If this is the case you should hire a lawyer as soon as you know you might be under suspicion. The lawyer may be able to talk to the detective or to the Assistant DA and tell them your side of the story. This may convince them not to proceed with the case.
The Pre-Trial Phase
Once the detective has decided there is enough evidence against you to present your case to the Assistant District Attorney the Pre-Trial phase of your case begins. The Assistant District Attorney is a prosecutor who is sworn to do justice. If you are innocent, or if there are significant problems with your case, your lawyer can explain those problems to the prosecutor and attempt to convince the Assistant District Attorney not to present your case to the Grand Jury. There may also be an opportunity, here, to negotiate a favorable plea bargain. Once your case is presented to the Grand Jury they will determine whether or not there is probable cause to indict you. Once you are indicted the Trial phase of the case begins.
Once you are indicted you have the right to a jury trial. Your attorney should be looking into trial strategy and arguments that he will be making on your behalf. It is appropriate to ask him about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. If you do not understand the arguments your lawyer will be making it is likely that a jury will not understand them either. Again, sometimes favorable plea bargains are made right on the eve of trial and it is a common tactic to use a trial to get an unreasonable prosecutor to offer a reasonable deal.
Throughout every phase of your criminal case you should understand what is being done on your behalf. If you don't understand what the strategy is there is a problem and you need to communicate that to your lawyer.
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