After realizing you’re in legal trouble, trying to formulate a reasonable plan may seem like a hazy effort.
But if you’re at the beginning stages of a criminal legal proceeding, then you have time to figure out how to find a criminal defense attorney.
Hiring a private defense attorney is crucial to your ability to get the best results possible. They’ll be your most effective support system and your best legal asset.
But first, you may want to understand what’s going to happen from here on out.
So keep reading and visit our website for more information to understand the first five steps you’ll experience after receiving criminal charges. Afterward, you’ll understand why having reliable legal counsel is key.
At the start of a criminal case, investigators will start collecting evidence. Investigators can come from various law enforcement agencies, such as:
- Local Police
- State Police
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Of course, other governmental law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Homeland Security Investigation (DHS/HSI) can also conduct investigations.
Prosecutors may also work with multiple law enforcement entities simultaneously to collect evidence.
Investigators can collect evidence with a lot of freedom, at least in relation to civil cases. They can subpoena for witness testimonies or obtain a search warrant to investigate properties.
From then, they can gather both direct and circumstantial evidence to build a case that gets to the truth.
The difference between direct and circumstantial evidence is key. While direct evidence clearly establishes a fact, circumstances evidence is meant to allow judges/jury members to make inferences.
However, both are valid pieces of evidence and crucial for both the prosecution and defense.
But before they do either, they need “probable cause.” Once they have it, they can persuade a judge to provide the subpoena(s)/search warrant(s) in question.
Depending on the crime, investigators may arrest suspects even before an official criminal investigation. This depends on several factors, and these judgments are best done on a case-by-case basis. Such factors include:
- Presence of probable cause
- Severity of possible charges
In general, making an arrest requires it to be immediately necessary. So for most cases, investigators don’t usually arrest anyone until they gather enough evidence to detain their suspect.
But a suspect might get arrested if officers can persuade a judge that they have probable cause. If they can, then a judge will sign off on an arrest warrant. With an arrest warrant, officers have the authority to detain the suspect into police custody.
Collecting evidence does not automatically give investigators the right to arrest a suspect. After the prosecution collects the evidence and testimonies submitted by investigators, they might create a “charging document.”
This document and its documented criminal charges are then filed with the court. This way, the prosecution informs the court that this case should be evaluated before an impartial grand jury.
The grand jury will listen to witness testimonies and evaluate evidence from the prosecution. They will also listen to the testimonies/evidence from the criminal defense attorney from the defense counsel before meeting in secret.
During this meeting, all 12 members of the jury will discuss amongst themselves the possibility of an indictment. For felony charges, all members must vote unanimously. If there’s any disagreement, they must continue discussing the case until they all finally agree.
If all members believe that the suspect is guilty based on the evidence presented, they are indicted with the criminal charges levied by the prosecution. But if not, then there is no indictment.
4. Initial Hearing and Arraignment
The charging process takes about 48 hours. Afterward, defendants are then presented before a judge. This first meeting is called an initial hearing or an “arraignment.”
The judge will read out the defendant’s rights and the charges filed against them during this process. Then they’ll be arranged with a public defense attorney if they have no means for a private criminal defense attorney.
The judge then decides whether the defendant should be detained in prison or released until the official court trial. But even if the judge decides to detain the defendant, the defendant may qualify for bail. If they’re able to post bail, then they can be released between trial dates.
But deciding whether the defendant meets the requirements is a separate process. The judge will determine if they qualify for bail by examining factors such as:
- Prior criminal record
- History of threatening witnesses
- History of residence in the local area
Before the first official trial, both the prosecution and the defense start preparing their case. Both parties must collect evidence, gather witness testimonies, and create a trial strategy. They will also anticipate the opposing party’s strategy to strengthen their own.
The prosecution and defense are also required to share evidence. After all, the point of these trials is to get to the truth, not to add winning numbers to an individual attorney’s record. Such evidence includes:
- Witness testimonies
- DNA evidence
- Police reports
- Photographic/video documentation
Not only that but the prosecution is also required to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence. This is evidence that would actually help the defense strengthen its case.
Otherwise, the prosecutor in question will face fines. The attorney may even face serious sanctions. This will also delay the entire trial process, as hiding exculpatory evidence may result in a mistrial.
Hit With Criminal Charges? It’s Time You Know Your Rights
When you get that first notice of your initial court date, it’s easy to panic. But while legal proceedings are no laughing matter, that doesn’t mean you have absolutely no control.
With the help of a private criminal defense attorney on your side, you can navigate the legal system with more confidence while potentially avoiding indictment of criminal charges.
At Maillett Criminal Law, we’re experts at the law and the federal legal system. Whether you need a drug offense attorney or a DUI attorney, committing to our partnership will give you the best success possible. If that sounds good to you, contact us today!
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