Criminal law is designed to protect society from behavior that is threatening, harmful, or damaging to people or their property. These rules cover an array of crimes, from assault to robbery and public indecency. If you are facing criminal charges for any reason, it’s important to understand the legal process that sets into motion as soon as you are arrested. Read on to learn more.
Arrest & Arraignment
When you are taken into custody, take advantage of your right to remain silent. Be polite, but do not answer questions until you have an attorney present.
After your arrest, you will either be booked in jail or released on bail. In a subsequent arraignment, a judge will clarify the criminal law charges against you and ask how you plead. They may also amend your bail at this time.
Going to Trial
In the run-up to the trial, your attorney will work to build your case. This can involve talking to witnesses, examining police reports, and interviewing you about what happened. The defense and the prosecution will exchange information during this time, a sharing process known as “discovery.”
Depending on the strength of your case, the attorney may advise you to go to trial and fight the charges or approach the prosecution for a plea bargain. If you go this route, you plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or a more lenient punishment.
Trial & Aftermath
The trial starts with opening statements from the defense and the prosecution. Both sides will present evidence and witnesses to try and prove their case. Finally, closing arguments will be made to summarize each side’s points.
The judge will then instruct the jury to deliberate and reach a verdict. Jurors must reach a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty, you are cleared of the charges and free to go. If you are found guilty, the judge will sentence you. You can appeal a guilty verdict, however.
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