This is the third in a series of blogs about the six stages of a criminal case, and what actions you should take in each stage. Please be sure to read parts one and two, Initial Investigation and Arrest and Charges. Always remember that all cases vary, and stages of a case can happen simultaneously. If you have any questions about criminal charges you are facing, or need a lawyer’s advice, please contact me ASAP for a free consultation. It’s very important to have someone on your side as you are facing the quagmire our legal system can become. Ensure your rights are protected at all times!
Once your charges are formally filed with the court, the case begins the long winding path through the criminal justice system. A criminal case rarely moves quickly. It is a matter of months, usually the better part of a year. During that time you and/or your attorney will be expected to come to court for pre-trial court dates. These are often quick status conferences where the prosecution and the defense check in with the judge with an update on how the case is proceeding.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
Many felony cases charged by the police are sent to the Preliminary Hearing section of the court. In theory, the purpose of this court is to determine if there is enough probable cause for the case to proceed to trial. In practice, the preliminary hearing is a pretrial court date where your attorney can get a copy of the police report and start negotiating a settlement with the prosecution. The preliminary hearing can be, and usually is, continued once or twice while negotiations continue. If no settlement is agreed upon the case will continue on to a trial judge.
What happens at an Arraignment?
An arraignment is a when the defendant appears before a judge for the purpose of hearing his or her charges read and entering a plea. An arraignment generally occurs pretty quickly after formal charges are filed with the court by the Grand Jury. Once the charges are read, the defendant will enter a plea: guilty, not guilty, or no-contest. These days the court will enter a not guilty plea for you and give you your next pretrial court date.
What other Pretrial Court dates are common?
Once the case is assigned to a trial judge there will be court dates before that judge on usually a monthly basis. This is so the judge can meet with the attorneys on the case and make sure the case is progressing either toward a trial or settlement. During this time, your attorney is gathering discovery and negotiation with the prosecutor for a possible settlement without trial.
How can a good lawyer help me through this process?
You absolutely have the right to an attorney to help you through this process. A good attorney will take the time to completely explain your charges and the different pleas and how each will affect you. If you’ve been charged with a crime and are looking at having to deal with bail and arraignment, make sure to have a great legal defense, so that your rights will always be protected.
Contact Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Burges McCowan.
Interested in learning more about the stages of a criminal case? Read Stage 4: Discovery.