If you have been charged with a crime, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, you will need to hire a Criminal Defense attorney to represent you and protect your rights. A defense attorney’s job is to make sure his or her client is treated fairly and lawfully and is defended against the charges. If you hire a defense attorney or receive a court-appointed public defender, he or she will take you through the steps in a criminal trial.
The first step in the process is the arraignment. This is the defendant’s first appearance in court, and it is the time when he or she must enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” The judge will also determine bail at this time and any other conditions of release.
The next step is the pre-trial hearing, when the prosecutor has to convince the judge that there is sufficient evidence to bring the defendant to trial. If the judge agrees that there is strong suspicion that the defendant committed a crime, then the case will go to trial. If not, the judge will dismiss the case.
Before the trial, there is a time for pre-trial hearings and motions. During this process, the attorneys on both sides can make requests of the judge or attempt to resolve any issues that may impact the case. This can also be the time for plea-bargaining. In plea-bargaining, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge and accept a lesser punishment.
If the case is not settled through a plea bargain, then it will go on to a jury trial. In the trial, each attorney presents his or her case by showing evidence and calling witnesses. A 12-member jury of citizens have to come to an agreement and give a verdict. Based on the jury’s verdict, the judge will decide the sentence.
If the defendant is found guilty, he or she may be eligible to appeal the verdict. An appeal is not a new trial, but rather a request that the appellate court review the trial to see if any mistakes were made. In an appeal, the defendant might claim that the verdict was not justified by the evidence presented or that a legal error affected the outcome of the case.
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