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Steps of the Criminal Process


Ever wonder what happens after you get arrested? Here is a quick rundown of each stage in the criminal process.

Bonds and Bailing-Out

After you get arrested, you will either be booked into jail (temporary holding) or ordered to appear at the first stage of the criminal process. During these first stages after you have been arrested, you will be given a bond amount. The court imposes an amount to deter those charged from leaving or absconding from the Court's jurisdiction. Plus, if you pay the amount, you can be released from jail. Bottom line, if you pay the bond amount, and you show up to court to the end of your case, the amount will generally be returned to you less an administration fee. However, getting a bond from a bondsman (generally and conveniently located right across from the court building) is used when you cannot afford the bond amount, and you need to pay the amount to get out of jail for the duration of your trial. However, this differs from paying the amount yourself, because you may have to pay the bondsman certain fees throughout the process, as well as give the money back at the end of the process. Each case is different and you should consult with your attorney about your bond amount and bailing-out.

Pretrial Stages

After bond is set, your attorney will argue for a specific bond amount, and with the Court's determination, you will be given a certain amount to pay. During this phase, the first stage of the criminal process begins with your arraignment. Arraignment is where the judge reads the charge(s) that are pending against you, and this is also where you plead your guilt, innocence, and in some states, no contest. This stage kick-starts the criminal process into motion, and at this stage in the process your attorney will begin talks with the judge and prosecution for other pleas, deals, and other programs to gather a general sense of what the other side thinks of your case. This is one of the most important stages in a criminal case—besides the trial itself—because your attorney can often strike a bargain with the State for a reduced sentence or plea.

Plea Bargaining

Often, both sides are willing to strike a deal with each other—this is like a contract where one side agrees to reduce a sentence and the other side agrees to a specific punishment. However, remember that the judge has to agree with the plea bargain at the end of the day, so defendant's need to get the o.k. from the State as well as the judge—something that does not always go to plan. Never consider yourself free until the judge makes the final determination; he or she is the final decision maker for plea bargains. Once again, this stage of the process is vital to the defense, because without plea bargaining, almost every case would go to trial. This process is so important that it makes up over 90% of all cases (cases generally end here 90% of the time) in any given court system in the United States. However, if the State and Defense cannot agree with each other, the early stages of trial will be set in motion.

Trial & Sentencing

If the case actually gets to trial (very few actually do), this will generally be the last time to strike a deal with the State, otherwise you will leave your sentence and guilt or innocence to the jury (anywhere from 6-12 people). Trials comprise of opening statements, direct and cross-examinations, closing arguments, motion practice, and evidentiary arguments. Once the trial concludes, the jury or judge (in bench trials) will render a decision and a sentence will come along with the decision (fines imposed and possible jail/prison term among other decisions).

If you have been charged with a crime, do not hesitate to contact The Meranda Law Firm, LTD. We are attorneys who have expertise in all aspects and stages of the criminal process and will fight for your rights and give you the best chance for success.

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