What Happens When Your Are Arrested
What Happens When Your Are Arrested
Â The Arrest:
An arrest takes place when the police hold you in custody and your freedom to leave is restricted.
When you are arrested, you will be taken to a police station and told why you are being held. At this point in your arrest, you will only be generally advised of the charges against you; your charges will be formally explained at an arraignment where you will also learn of the potential consequences for being guilty of the charges that you face.
Being booked for jail may include having your picture taken, revealing your name and address and being fingerprinted. Be aware that police have the right to book you before you are able to contact friends, family, an attorney or a bail bondsman.
As you are booked by the police department, any personal property on you during your arrest (i.e., clothing, money, jewelry, etc.) will be taken from you for safekeeping. Your belongings should be carefully inventoried and you should receive a copy of the inventory. Be sure to read the inventory and check it for accuracy before you sign it. Your personal property will be returned to you upon your release from jail if it was not illegal or seized at evidence. Depending on the jail this process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours.
You will be required to remain in jail until your trial date or until you are able to post bail.
The First Court Appearance
Your first appearance in court is called an arraignment. An arraignment is a court session where you are formally charged with a crime and must plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges that you face. A not guilty plea will result in a trial where you may confront and cross-examine your accusers and allow a jury to hear your case. A guilty or no contest plea will result in a sentencing for the crime you admitted to. If you choose to plead guilty or no contest you are willingly and knowingly giving up your right to a trial by jury, your right to not incriminate yourself and your right to challenge the charges you face.
Many families mistakenly believe that their friend or loved one will be released after the first court appearance. This is not the case. Most likely, the defendant will remain in custody until the case has been fully resolved. This can take weeks, months, or years to complete depending on the type of crime that has been alleged.
Many families also mistakenly believe the defendant or the defendants witnesses will be able to tell the judge their side of the story at this first hearing and thereby get the bail amount reduced or even get their case dropped. At this first, hearing, you should not expect the defendant will be able to address the judge with anything other than a statement of guilty or not guilty. The defendant will not be able to tell his side of the story or present any information about his guilt or innocence.Â This type of information will be collected at the preliminary and pretrial hearings which will be scheduled during the arraignment hearing.
Bail amount is usually set according to a prearranged schedule. Most judges are reticent to deviate from this schedule because it might appear as favortism or some type of bias which can influence the case at hand. If a bail reduction is to be considered, a separate hearing is usually required to evaluate the facts surrounding the bail schedule as it pertains to the case at hand.
The Pre Trial
The Pre-Trial is an opportunity for the Defense Lawyer to meet with the Prosecutor and discuss whether there might be a way to work the case out without having to go through a full-blown Jury Trial. The goal, or course, is for each side to compromise a little and hopefully come to an agreement that is fair to both sides, which usually means some kind of Plea Bargain.
Pre-Trials can produce many outcomes, from a decision to Adjourn the case and come back and discuss it later, to a Plea Bargain which resolves it, to the setting down of the Case for a formal Trial, either by Jury, or the Judge alone (Bench Trial).
Pretrial motions may also be filed before the start of the trial. Motions may be made to set aside the complaint, to dismiss the case, to suppress evidence, etc. The defendant may at this point change his or her plea to guilty or no contest.
A preliminary hearing is a proceeding before a judicial officer in which evidence is presented so the court may determine whether there is sufficient cause to hold the accused for trial on a felony charge. If the sufficient cause is established, the defendant will be held to answer to Superior Court and a new charging document titled an Information will be filed.
In reaching this probable cause decision, the judge listens to arguments from the government (through a government attorney, or "prosecutor"), and from the defendant (usually through his or her attorney). The prosecutor may call witnesses to testify, and can introduce physical evidence in an effort to convince the judge that the case should go to trial. The defense usually cross-examines the government's witnesses and calls into question any other evidence presented against the defendant, seeking to convince the judge that the prosecutor's case is not strong enough, so that the case against the defendant must be dismissed before trial.
Held to Answer/Arraignment:
New charging document titled an Information will be filed and defendant is arraigned again.
Trial Setting Conference:
If after discussions between counsel and the court and no disposition having been reached, the case is given a trial date with pre-trial motions set as needed.
A felony trial must begin within 60 days of the arraignment on the Information, unless the defendant enters a general waiver of the statutory time requirement or requests/consents to a date beyond the 60-day period.
If the case is a misdemeanor, and the defendant is in custody at the time of arraignment, the jury trial must begin within 30 days of arraignment or plea. If the defendant is not in custody at the time of arraignment, the trial must begin within 45 days of arraignment or plea.
Before a trial can begin, the attorneys must select a jury. During the trial, witnesses may testify and evidence will be presented. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury must decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If the jury finds the defendant is not guilty, he or she is released and cannot be tried again for the same crime. If the defendant is found guilty, the case will be continued for sentencing, or the defendant may be sentenced immediately.
In lieu of a jury trial, the defendant may agree to proceed with a court trial, in which the judge hears the evidence and arguments and finds the defendant guilty or not guilty.
All Criminal cases are resolved in a few ways. Most of the time, there is a Plea Bargain. Less frequently, the matter is set for Trial, and that Trial results in either a "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" Verdict. Once in a while a case is not strong enough to proceed and results in the whole thing being dismissed.
A dismissal or a Verdict of "Not Guilty" means the Defendant, the person charged with the Offense, is now free of the Charge. Nothing more happens; the Case is dead. Bond money (if any) is returned, and the file is closed.
When there is a Plea Bargain, or a Verdict of Guilt, the next phase is the Sentencing. Depending on the Charge, the Judge may decide to Sentence the person right on the spot, at the time they either enter a Plea or are convicted. In other cases, like DUI, where a mandatory alcohol screening must, by law, be completed, with the results and recommendation of the Screener forwarded to the Judge before Sentencing can occur, or, if not required by law, simply because the Judge wants to, the Sentencing will be scheduled for a future Court date. The Sentencing is where whatever will happen to the Defendant actually happens. This means that if there is Punishment, it is imposed at Sentencing. Same thing for Probation, Fines, Costs, Classes, and whatever else the Judge decides to require.
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