Being charged with a crime is a stressful situation, but now is not the time to panic! Let’s talk about the process you’ll be going through to help you get a better understanding of what to expect.
Taken into Custody
You will be taken into custody when the police charge you with a crime. You do not have to make statements or answer questions, either before or after you are formally charged. It is best just keep silent. If you do speak, however, make sure to be truthful.
Remember, you are not admitting guilt if you ask for a lawyer, despite what you may have seen on television. In fact, now is the time to do just that.
You will go before a judge who will either set a bail amount or release you on “recognizance,” or your promise that you will return for all of your court dates. If the judge sets a bail amount you will either have to come up with the money or work with a bail bondsman to secure your release. Sometimes a lawyer can help you get a lower bail amount.
This court appearance is designed to determine the following:
- Whether you received a copy of the complaint
- Who your legal representation will be. If you need a public defender you would ask for one at this time.
- You can ask for an omnibus hearing, which determines the admissibility of evidence and whether there is probable cause to proceed to trial.
This is the court appearance where you will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. If you plead guilty you will be sentenced. If you plead not guilty the court will schedule a trial. You may also be scheduled for a pre-trial conference, depending on what you’ve been charged with.
This is a meeting with the prosecutor, during which you and your defense lawyer may try to resolve your case without a trial. The prosecution may offer you a plea bargain, for example, offering to drop greater charges if you plead “guilty” to a lesser crime. You do not have to take any deal that you do not want to take, but you should carefully assess your options with your attorney before making any decision.
A jury of your peers is selected. Then the prosecution and the defense will both have their chance to present their cases. With luck, your ordeal will be over when the jury makes its decision. If not, there may be more your attorney can do.
The entire process may take a few months, or it may take up to one year. This depends on your case.
As you can see, it’s a good idea to have a trustworthy, qualified, and experienced criminal attorney by your side during every step of this process. If you’ve been accused of a crime, call BGS as soon as possible so we can help your case reach the best possible outcome!