What to Know as You Face Your First Criminal Charge

Once you have gone through the criminal law process, you will likely know what to expect if you ever end up in the same position in the future, but if you are just now facing your first charge, you might be wondering what to expect. If you are in this position, here are the basic steps you should expect during your criminal case.

The arraignment hearing

After you are arrested, you can get out of jail by paying bail, or you can stay in jail if you have no way to bail yourself out. In either case, shortly after the arrest, the court will set up an arraignment hearing. This hearing is a very basic hearing that is designed simply to announce the charges you have against you and let you know what your rights are. You will also be asked how you want to plead in the case. This hearing generally occurs within a few days of your arrest.

The preliminary hearing

The next step is called a preliminary hearing, and it is designed as a way to determine how to proceed with the case. At this point, the prosecutor may drop the charges if there is a lack of evidence. If the prosecutor wants to continue moving forward with the charges, a trial date will be set up at this hearing. There is also a chance this hearing will involve details about a plea bargain.

The plea bargain process

The plea bargain process is designed to eliminate the need for a defendant to go to trial. Plea bargains benefit both the defendants in cases and the courts, but they are optional. You will need to discuss your plea bargain with the lawyer you hire, and you should take his or her advice as to how to proceed.

The trial, verdict, and sentence

If you decide to reject the plea bargain, or if there is no plea bargain offered to you, your case will go to trial. A trial is a formal hearing where both parties offer evidence and information about the case. The jury assigned to hear the case will be responsible to decide the verdict. After you get the verdict, you will either be innocent and free to go on with your life, or you will have consequences in the form of a sentence.

These are the main steps you should expect to face as you go through your criminal case. To learn more or to get legal help, contact a criminal lawyer.