What happens when a case goes to trial? Is there a certain procedure that the authorities follow?
Well, yes, there is, and it is none other than the legal process. The criminal legal process certainly differs from the civil one. But what does it consist of? What are the different stages of it? How can you make sure that your criminal case is going the correct way?
No, worries. We are here to help you out. In this article, we will discuss the legal process. If you want to file a case or go to court, let this be your guide. So, without much dilly-dallying, let us begin.
What Does The Legal Process Consist Of?
There is no short answer to this question. Each step of the legal procedure consists of multiple steps. For example, did you know that there is something we call exculpatory evidence and inculpatory evidence? If you do, good for you!
So, as we were saying, there are multiple sub-steps to the legal procedure. That is why we will give you an easy summary of it all.
The legal process in a criminal case consists of the following. There are three kinds of court proceedings. They are civil, criminal, and administrative types. Each of these caters to different types of crimes.
Firstly, in a criminal case, if a prosecutor accuses someone of a crime, it is what we call a criminal proceeding.
Additionally, these steps follow.
The police will start a criminal investigation.
- Next, the police may arrest the accused or summon them to court. In the court, the judge can charge them with a crime.
- At the first hearing, the court gives the list of charges to the accused. They might plead guilty or not guilty.
- Next comes the discovery process where the prosecution shares information the defense attorney.
- One can file legal motions before the trial takes place.
- In case of an indictment, the authorities choose a jury.
- The trial takes place. Until the trial reaches the final verdict, the rights of the accused stay intact.
- Before a verdict, both sides can opt for a plea agreement.
- The judge or jury gives a verdict.
If guilty, the jury carries out a sentencing.
Did You Know That The Law Enforcement Initiates The Legal Process?
If there’s probable cause that points to the commission of a crime, the authorities can either arrest the person. This accused will become the defendant in the case whom the court may summon.
The legal process server delivers the summons to the accused via registered mail or personally.
What Happens After The Arrest?
In case of an arrest, the person will immediately enter police custody, ie. jail. Typically, the prosecutor decides what charges will go upon the person. Or, if it is a crime of gravity, the court might also order an indictment through a grand jury. On that note, be sure to check out our article on indicted vs convicted.
Each state has its own criminal code. This code determines the criminal legal process of arrest and charging procedure. In the case of federal crimes, ideally, a federal criminal code is the go-to procedure. After the accused goes into custody, authorities only have a short window. Ideally, there is a maximum period of three days. Within this, they can file charges in court.
Summons And The Legal Process
After the court issues a summons, the accused has to appear in court. A Bail bond is set when the final charges are set. In case the defendant gets a summons, they will not have to post bail. Charges may be of a felony, misdemeanor, etc. It may also be under federal, state, or municipal jurisdictions.
What Happens At The Initial Hearing?
At the initial hearing takes place, the defendant receives a copy of all charges against them. At the arraignment hearing, the defendant can claim guilty or not guilty. They can also opt for continuance. This legal process dictates that the proceeding happens before a judge. Moreover, the defendant has the right to hire legal representation.
What Happens At The Hearing?
During these hearings, the defense can opt to request a personal bond or a bond amount reduction. If the defense claims a not-guilty plea, there will be a speedy trial process. Ideally, the trial will take place in the next six months.
Next, the prosecution starts the “Discovery.” Here, they share information and evidence-related information on the case. The defense lawyer can go through police reports, victim and witness statements, criminal history, and much more. Additionally, they can also get access to reports of both witnesses and themselves.
Therefore, the discovery process allows the defendant to go through evidence. It is their chance to prove their innocence.
What Happens Next?
Normally, in criminal cases, the prosecution doesn’t get information from the defense. But if the case goes to trial, it’ll be different. Then, the prosecution usually has the right to get some information back from the defendant. This might include details about what the defense plans to do. It might be something like who they’ll call as witnesses or experts. The defense doesn’t have to say if the defendant talks in court or not.
Let The Pretrial Motions Begin
Pretrial motions, filed by either the defense or prosecution, address legal issues before a trial. Common in criminal cases, these motions cover various aspects. They are as follows.
a. Protective Orders
To safeguard certain aspects of the case.
b. Adding, Dismissing, or Amending Charges
Here they can carry out the Modification of charges.
c. Costs of Care for Seized Animals
Addressing animals seized during investigations.
d. Suppressing or Excluding Evidence
There is a chance to challenge the admissibility of evidence.
e. Qualifications of Expert Witnesses
This ensures that experts are qualified.
f. Bill of Particulars
This is used for seeking more details on charges.
g. Dismissal Motions
This is used for requesting case dismissal.
Pretrial motion hearings occur before trial. They involve witness testimonies and evidence. If a dismissal motion is granted, the trial doesn’t proceed. Although the petitioner may refile the charges within the statute of limitations.
A jury, usually 12 members, then takes the case into consideration. Voir dire, questioning potential jurors occurs. Next, the authorities select the jurors as a part of the legal process.
The trial follows, involving opening statements. The next step is witnessing testimonies and evidence presentation. Therefore, the prosecution must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. After trial, plea agreements, sentencing, and the right to appeal may follow.
With this, we reach an end to our article on the legal process. The legal process in criminal law ensures fairness, justice, and protection of individual rights. With investigations, hearings, and trials, the process brings about the truth and innocence.
It provides an opportunity for both the prosecution and defense to present their cases. A balanced evaluation takes place after that. Additionally, these procedures serve as a safeguard against arbitrary abuse of power.