What's the process?
An initial appearance hearing will take place shortly after you're arrested and/or turn yourself in. Depending on the charge, you may be required to appear before a judge before you are allowed to post bond or you may be given a later date and time to appear before the court. At the initial appearance, the judge will read the charge(s) against you and advise you of the maximum penalty for each charge. You will then be given an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. As a general rule, you should always plead not guilty until you have had an opportunity to speak with an attorney about the facts of your case, as well as possible defenses and options moving forward.
Trial Information, Minutes of Testimony, and Arraignment
Following your initial appearance, the State has 45 days from the date of your arrest to file a document called Trial Information. Trial Information is the official charging document in a criminal case. Along with Trial Information, the State will also file the Minutes of Testimony, which lists out the witnesses that the State anticipates will testify in the event your case proceeds to trial.
After Trial Information and Minutes of Testimony are filed, the court will set a hearing date for arraignment. At the arraignment stage, you will confirm that you have received a copy of the Trial Information, confirm that you have been charged in your true and correct legal name, either confirm your not guilty plea from your initial appearance or choose to plead guilty, and either waive or demand your right to a speedy trial within 90 days. Arraignment can be completed in person with the judge or by filing a written arraignment.
After Arraignment, a Pretrial Conference will be scheduled. At the Pretrial Conference, your attorney will have an opportunity to discuss the facts of your case with the County Attorney. You should also receive a plea offer for your charge(s). After the Pretrial Conference, you will discuss your case facts and options with your attorney and decide whether you should proceed to depositions and possibly to trial, or accept a plea offer.
Discovery is the process of receiving and providing evidence related to the case. The State is required to produce a copy of anything they intend to use in prosecuting your case, as well as any exculpatory evidence, to you or your attorney. Exculpatory evidence is anything that is favorable towards you that would tend to show a lack of guilt on your part. Likewise, you are required to provide a copy of anything you intend to use as part of your defense to the State.
Discovery could include law enforcement dash camera footage and audio, law enforcement narrative reports, witness statements, photos, and physical evidence.
Discovery also includes depositions. During a deposition, you have an opportunity to place any witnesses listed on the Minutes of Testimony under oath and ask questions about their involvement in your case, any recollections they may have, etc. Depositions are a trial preparation tool because it gives you a glimpse into what each witness would say on the stand.
The majority of criminal cases end in either the acceptance of a plea offer or dismissal. In the event you are unable or unwilling to agree on a plea offer, your case will proceed to trial.
Most criminal trials are jury trials; however, under certain circumstances, your attorney may advise you to waive your right to a jury trial and request a bench trial instead. A bench trial is a trial held without a jury, where the judge makes the final decision as to whether you are guilty or not, rather than a jury.
A jury is made up of 12 individuals. All 12 jurors must agree that you are guilty in order for you to be found guilty of the charge(s). If even 1 juror finds that you are not guilty, you cannot be found guilty by the court.
Depending on the charge(s), a trial can take anywhere from a single day to several weeks. If you are found not guilty, the charge(s) against you will be dismissed. If you are found guilty, the judge will determine the appropriate sentence.
Give us a call today to discuss your case!