Most criminal cases follow the same trajectory, if not the same timeline.
If you’ve been arrested for a crime, you might need to prepare for
what to expect next. Here are the seven stages to expect in a criminal case.
Stage 1: Bail
Depending on the severity of a crime, bail may not be necessary. However,
it is a payment made to the court allowing a defendant to be released
from custody and go home. Its purpose is to ensure you show up for your
court dates; otherwise, the money is forfeited. Bail can be expensive,
which is why there are businesses that offer to pay your bail for a percentage
of the total amount.
Stage 2: Arraignment
The arraignment is usually the first court appearance in a criminal case
and must be held as fast as possible, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
They often occur quickly after an arrest as a protection for defendants.
Police and prosecutors
should have valid evidence gathered and cannot hold you indefinitely while deciding
how to proceed in court. The judge will listen to all arguments from the
prosecution and defense and decide any bail issues. The judge will also
set a tentative schedule for upcoming court dates.
Stage 3: Preliminary Hearing
A preliminary hearing happens shortly after charges have officially been
filed. The judge will decide whether or not there is probable cause to
hold a trial on the charges against the defendant, or whether there is
no sufficient evidence to prosecute. Prosecutors will call witnesses and
present evidence to support his or her argument that a trial is necessary,
and the defense can cross-examine these witnesses and argue a lack of
sufficient evidence. In this stage, the judge can rule that the defendant
should stand trial for the original charges, stand trial for less severe
offenses, or is free to go because the case is dismissed.
Stage 4: Pretrial Conference
At this juncture, the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge meet and
discuss possible plea bargains. A good defense attorney will create a
“mitigation package” that demonstrates the personal situation
of the defendant and attempts to convince the parties that the defendant
is a good person who made a mistake. However, ultimately the defendant
will have the power to accept or reject the plea bargain negotiated by
his or her lawyer
Stage 5: Jury Trial
If someone rejects the plea deal, a jury trial is necessary. A jury will
be selected to hear the arguments of the defense and the prosecution and
make a decision regarding whether or not the evidence fits the charges.
Stage 6: Sentencing
Depending on the ruling of the jury, they will either determine that the
defendant is guilty, not guilty, or guilty of some of the charges and
not guilty of others. Sentencing for a guilty verdict is a decision made
by the judge. Largely, the circumstances surrounding the crime and the
arrest will determine the judge’s decision, as will previous convictions.
Stage 7: Appeal
Once a jury and judge have made their decisions and convicted a person
of a crime and rendered a sentence, the convicted person can challenge
a jury’s verdict at trial. This challenge involves filing a Notice
of Appeal, which moves the individual’s case to a higher-level appellate
court. The appellant cannot include new evidence or introduce new arguments
about their innocence, but they can cite specific instances where the
case was not handled properly. If the appellate judge feels the jury made
an error, he or she can overturn the verdict.
For more information about how your case will work, or to discuss your
situation with an experienced
Mesa criminal defense attorney, don’t hesitate to call us. Our lawyers are dedicated to protecting
people’s rights and freedoms. Let us see what we can do for you.
at (480) 418-0776 or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation today.