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The Stages of Regular Criminal Case

Being arrested can be confusing and intimidating, especially when you don’t know what lies ahead. While you’re constitutionally guaranteed the right to a fair and speedy trial, the process for a criminal law trial is more complex than you might believe. So to help you better prepare for what you may face up ahead, here is a highly-generalized timeline of what you can expect during your case. Of course, it’s strongly advised you speak with a Bakersfield criminal defense attorney about your case and retain their help through every step of the process in order to give yourself the best possible chance at an optimal outcome.

The first step to any criminal case is you have to initially be arrested. In order for you to be arrested, law enforcement must have “probable cause” to believe a crime was committed, or have actually witnessed the crime themselves. Once under arrest, a suspect is officially in custody and will be booked.

If a suspect in custody is granted bail, they may choose to pay the bail amount in exchange for a release. The terms of bail are generally based on a suspect’s flight risk (risk of leaving the county, state, or country), the seriousness of the crime, and any previous criminal history.

Arraignment is the first court appearance, during which the judge responsible for the case reads off the charges filed against a defendant. Once the charges are laid out, the judge then asks the defendant how they plead: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The judge will also review bail and set future court dates.

Preliminary Hearing/Jury Proceedings
During these proceedings, it is determined whether or not a defendant has to stand trial for their charges due to their being sufficient probable cause for an arrest. During a preliminary hearing, both sides present arguments before a judge, while in a grand jury proceeding, only the prosecution presents before the jury, who ultimately make the decision as to whether the arrest was warranted.

Pre-Trial Motions
These are often-overlooked and extremely underestimated, but will have a tremendous influence on your case. During these proceedings, any final issues regarding evidence or other factors are resolved. Most notably, it’s determined what evidence is admissible to your trial.

Your trial itself is what most people think of when they think of going to court. During this period, your defense attorney and the prosecution will both present their arguments to try to prove the accused is either guilty or innocent. The prosecution must do so “beyond all reasonable doubt” in order to warrant a conviction.

If the defendant is found guilty, they will be forced to undergo sentencing. During this period, the court determines the appropriate punishment. This includes any previous criminal history, the nature and severity of the crime, the defendant’s personal circumstances, the degree of remorse felt, and more. The decision is usually read in a final court appearance.

If the defendant and their attorney believe that the judgement was given in error, then they may request that the trial is reviewed by a higher court. If the higher court finds that an error did in fact occur, they may reverse the conviction or request that the case be re-tried.

Get help with every step of the criminal process from a Bakersfield criminal defense lawyer. Call Campbell Whitten today at 661-735-1038 for a case evaluation!