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Criminal Trial and Litigation Process

Let’s take a look at what the trial and litigation process is once you have been charged with a crime or are facing criminal charges.

If you are facing criminal charges or have been charged with a crime, this usually means that someone has reported a crime that involves you, or the police have stopped you and charged you with a crime after a police investigation.

Either way you are facing criminal charges because the police believe they have enough evidence to prove that you actually committed the crime.

At this point in the process, it will vary a bit depending on the state that you are facing charges in, but one of three things will happen:

    1. They will get an arrest warrant and arrest you.

    2. They will arrest you and file an affidavit of probable cause on why you should remain arrested.

    3. They will give you a summons to appear in court for an arraignment date.

Regardless of which step the police choose to take, you are being charged with a crime that the police believe they have enough evidence to convict you of and the case is transferred to the District Attorney’s office.

Once the case goes to the District Attorney’s office they will review the entire police file and will decide what charges will be brought against you.

It is important to know that the charges filed against you by police may not be the final charges. Ultimately, it is the District Attorney’s choice on what to charge you with, so they can choose to add charges, add higher charges, lessen the charges, or even choose to bring no charges at all.

The District Attorney’s office will also look at the time frame in which the charges were filed. These time frames vary from state to state, and have particular consequences for each not being met, but the District Attorney is the one who will decide if the statute of limitations has been met.

If the District Attorney’s office decides not to bring any charges against you, this is where the process stops.

If the District Attorney’s office decides to continue forward with charges, then you need to get a criminal defense attorney (if you don’t already have one) or one will be appointed to you. Once charges are brought forth from the District Attorney’s office, a hearing date will be set for your arraignment.

During the arraignment hearing the district attorney will read out your charges and you will make your plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” to each of the charges against you. At this point in the trial and litigation process, any attorney you hire should be advising you to plead “not guilty”.

This is because at this point in the process you do not know what evidence they have against you or the defenses you may have for that evidence. The only information you have are the charges the district attorney’s office is bringing against you.

Once your ‘not guilty’ plea(s) are entered in court, the next thing that will happen is your attorney will need to file a request for discovery. A request for discovery is when your attorney requests that the district attorney turn over all evidence they have against you that is supposed to prove your guilt.

The type of items turned over in discovery can include:

    • Police reports

    • Witness statements

    • All video footage or photographs

    • Recorded statements

    • Lab reports

    • EVERY piece of evidence they have

Once the evidence is received from the district attorney, your attorney will begin going through each piece looking for important information to help defend your case. Many times a criminal case can be won during the discovery phase, because this is where your attorney can find out if the evidence was obtained illegally or if any of your constitutional rights were violated in the process.

There are many cases where evidence has been thrown out or suppressed because of the way the evidence was obtained. This is why the discovery phase is so important. Your attorney will be able to file motions with the court to prevent the district attorney from using this type of evidence against you.

It is also during the discovery phase that your attorney will be able to figure out what arguments that the district attorney is going to make against you. This then allows your attorney to do their own investigations and to prepare for your defense.

Remember, you are innocent until PROVEN guilty! This means you are not required to testify, provide witnesses, or prove you are not-guilty, it is assumed. It is the district attorney’s job to prove your guilt by providing the evidence, witnesses, and testimonies showing that without reasonable doubt you did in fact commit the crime(s) you are charged with.

However, this is the time when your attorney will prepare any witnesses you may have for your defense. This will help your criminal defense attorney better fight against the acquisitions being made by the district attorney.

The next step in the criminal litigation process is filing the necessary motions. Motions such as a motion to suppress evidence or a motion to eliminate evidence are all filed in preparation for the trial. There are also a number of other preliminary examinations, probable cause hearings, and other preliminary hearings that your attorney can request prior to your trial taking place.

Once discovery has been completed and the filing of motions begins, if the district attorney is going to offer you a plea deal this is when they will likely do it. If you are offered a plea deal you are not obligated to take it, no matter what pressure the district attorney’s may put on you, it is your right to a fair trial.

There are instances where taking the plea deal is the best option for you, but that is something that is case specific and fact specific, so you will need to discuss this with your criminal defense attorney to ensure you are making the best choice for your case.

If your criminal defense attorney advises you to take a plea deal and you decide that is the best choice for you, then the process stops here and you will follow the stipulations of the agreed to plea deal.

If your criminal defense attorney advises you to deny all plea deals, once this is done the next step would be preparing for trial.

At trial the district attorney will have to present all evidence and testimonies that they have against you to the judge and/or jury depending on the type of case you have. Whether you go before just a judge or judge and jury will depend on your case and state. Every state has different guidelines for what determines the case type. To get this information you would have to look up your state laws.

During the trial when the district attorney presents their evidence and witnesses to testify against you, you have the right for your attorney to cross-examine them. It is also during the trial that your attorney will present any of your evidence or witnesses for your defense, and the district attorney will be allowed the same right of cross-examination.

At the conclusion of your trial, after all evidence has been presented and testimonies have been heard, you will finally get your guilty or not-guilty verdict.

The time frame for each criminal trial and litigation process will vary, depending on the charges, seriousness of charges, and more. Typically speaking the higher the crime, the longer the process will take. However, it is important to note that in a lot of cases, time can work in your favor as a defendant. This may not be the case for everyone, especially if you or your loved one is incarcerated, then you will want to get things moving as soon as possible.

Please note that Criminal Trials and Criminal Litigation processes are not cookie cutter cases. They are very lengthy and there are many ways that a case can go, in no way is this information a guarantee on how your trial will go but is a general representation of what the process looks like for your criminal defense attorney.

I hope you find this information helpful and if you or a loved one are in need of a criminal defense attorney Briana Robertson with BCRobertson Law would be happy to fight for your rights and defend you.

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