If you’ve been charged with a crime, there’s no doubt you’re facing a lot of uncertainty.
When it comes to dealing with criminal charges, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the current laws and procedures so you know exactly what to do next.
This guide will show you what you can expect next as well as your rights and the criminal process to keep you protected.
The Charges and Booking
Depending on the situation, you may not be arrested immediately if you’ve been charged with a crime. A judge may issue a warrant for your arrest, and then an officer will attempt to make contact with you so you can be taken to jail.
You must be able to obtain a copy of the warrant at some point so you can see exactly what your charges are. The police may not have a copy with them at the time of your arrest, but the courts should provide it to you.
Once you are arrested, you’ll be booked at the local police department or jail. Your fingerprints will be taken and in some cases, your mugshot will be taken, too.
You will talk to the magistrate, usually within 48 hours of being arrested. The magistrate will set your bond or they may let you go pending a hearing depending on the severity of the charges.
If a bond amount is set, you’ll need to have it paid before you can be released. Most serious crimes are given “no bond” which means you’d have to stay in jail until the date of your hearing.
Find out if you are being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. The difference between these two types of crimes is significant and could play a role in your sentencing later. You should also find out if you’re charged with a federal or state crime.
You will be given the right to talk to an attorney, so it’s recommended that you find one so you have proper representation. Your attorney can help you find out more about the charges against you.
If you cannot afford an attorney, you’ll likely be assigned a public defender who can represent you at little to no cost.
Court Hearings After Being Charged with a Crime
Once your charges are filed, a judge will give you a specific date and time for your hearing. The judge will read the charges against you, and you’re considered the defendant in the case.
The judge will ask you if you understand the charges, and then they will ask you to enter a plea. The plea will be guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Your lawyer should advise you on how to plead.
If you think there is enough evidence to prove your innocence, you can plead not guilty. In these cases, there will be a trial where it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not commit the crime.
If you know you’re guilty, pleading guilty right away may reduce your sentencing to something less severe. For a not guilty case, you’ll either stand in front of a judge or jury who will hear both sides of the case.
You can waive your right to a jury trial in some instances, and the judge will be the one to decide your fate. Always talk to your attorney before choosing to waive a jury trial.
If you are found not guilty of the crime, you’ll be released with no charges. If you are guilty, the next step will be a sentencing hearing.
Once you’ve completed your criminal trial and have been found guilty, the judge will schedule a separate sentencing hearing. The court will make a pre-sentencing report which investigates whether or not you’ve had any prior criminal history.
People with no prior charges tend to get a lighter sentence, depending on the type and nature of the crime. After your sentencing, there could be a chance to have other people speak on your behalf.
These cases will involve family members, friends, or bosses who can vouch for your character in an attempt to ask for a lighter sentence. Alternatively, the family and friends of the victim may speak and request a harsher sentence.
In every hearing, the judge considers all of the evidence that has been presented. They will also take into account the current sentencing requirements that match your crime.
If the crime is minor and you’ve been in custody the entire time, it may count as time already served. For serious crimes, you could face a much more severe penalty and longer jail time.
In addition to jail time, you’ll likely be forced to pay court fees, fines, and possibly restitution to the victim. If the crime is alcohol or drug related, you could be asked to attend counseling and rehabilitation services.
Sometimes, the judge may simply release you and ask you to pay a fine and do some community service. Sentences vary by jurisdiction, and it’s extremely important that you choose an attorney you can trust who will protect your interests.
Know the Criminal Process
While this is just a general overview, it’s important to understand the entire process if you have been charged with a crime. Always consult a criminal attorney who understands the laws in your particular location.
For a free consultation and help with your criminal charges, contact us today and visit our website for more information.