How does a criminal case work?
Arrest/Notice to Appear: Your case begins when a police officer believes that you violated the law and places you under arrest or issues you a Notice to Appear in Court. (Sometimes this is called a ticket or citation.)
Filing: Then, for everything except traffic tickets, the State Attorney’s Office will choose to either file or not file charges on the case. If they choose to file, they have the leeway to pick different charges from those the police originally chose.
Arraignment: If the Prosecutor decides to file formal charges against you, an arraignment will be scheduled. During the arraignment, the judge will read your charges, explain the possible penalties, and allow you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you have hired an attorney, they have the authority to waive your appearance for this hearing.
Motions: If your attorney has filed pre-trial motions, like a Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss, they will be heard before your trial date. During these hearings, the Prosecutor may present witnesses, your attorney will provide case law, and both sides will argue their positions to the judge. Based on the judge’s ruling, your case may end at this hearing. Your appearance may or may not be required, your lawyer will let you know.
Docket Sounding/Pre-Trial: By the time of this hearing, your attorney should have received all of the police reports, statements, evidence lists, and other discovery for your case. You will likely have an offer to plea to lesser charges or a lower sentence at this hearing. If the case is not ready for trial by this hearing, it will likely be continued to a later date so that your attorney has more time to prepare your case. At this hearing, a date for trial will be set. Again, your appearance may or may not be required, the lawyer will let you know.
Trial: On the day of trial, your attorney will select a jury panel, argue against the evidence presented by the state attorney, and make arguments to the jury to persuade them to find you not guilty. Your appearance is mandatory. This is where that status of your case is determined. You will find out whether you are found innocent or guilty.
This entire process can take anywhere from a few days to several years. It all depends on what happened at the outset of your case and on the evidence accrued, witnesses’ statements, and your history in the legal system.
We will do anything within our power to ensure the best outcome for your case. We will fight for your rights and your freedom. We know that the best offense is a good defense.