What is the Criminal
The various steps in the Criminal Process
are as follows:
1. The Arrest: The
police arrest someone based on probable cause that they have
committed a criminal offense. However, the police do not file
the charges. They simply provide reports and evidence to the
prosecuting attorney, who then decides whether or not charges
should be filed, and if so, what charges.
2. Filing of the Complaint:
The police arrest someone based on probable cause that
they have committed a criminal offense. However, the police
do not file the charges. They simply provide reports and evidence
to the prosecuting attorney, who then decides whether or not
charges should be filed, and if so, what charges. The prosecuting
attorney files the document with the court, which alleges the
charges against you.
3. Arraignment/First Appearance:
At the arraignment, you are formally advised of the charges
and your constitutional rights. Bail is often set during the
arraignment. Bail is used by the court almost like an "insurance
policy" that you will appear on future court dates.
The amount of bail is determined by the
judge. The judge will look to two factors in deciding bail:
your risk of flight and whether you pose a danger to the community.
Bail amounts can range from being released on your own recognizance,
all the way up to millions of dollars. In some cases no bail
4. Preliminary Hearing:
Preliminary Hearings are held in all felony offenses to review
probable cause. This is necessary for the judge to determine
whether there is sufficient evidence to support the charges
against you. Once a Judge determines that there is probable
cause, he sends the case to the Superior Court for trial. During
the Preliminary Hearing, the district attorney or the judge
can add additional charges and/or readjust the bail.
5. Arraignment in the Superior Court:
If the judge has determined that there is probable cause to
support the charges, the prosecutor will file a charging document
called an Information in the Superior Court. The Information
alleges the charges which you are facing at trial. At this time,
you are formally advised of the charges and your constitutional
rights. Again, you enter a plea of not guilty.
6. Pre-trial Conference:
At the pre-trial conference, the defense attorney discusses
the case with the prosecuting attorney and often may include
the judge in this process. This is a good opportunity to speak
with the prosecution in order to obtain the best possible deal,
or plea-bargain. It also allows the defense attorney to provide
information which may prove your innocence.
7. Trial: During the jury
trial you are entitled to have a jury of twelve impartial jurors.
Both the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney have
an opportunity to make opening statements, introduce witnesses
and evidence in favor of their case, cross-examine witnesses
and offer closing arguments. During the deliberation phase of
the case, the jury decides whether the prosecution has met the
burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury
finds you not guilty, you are free to go and not subject to
further prosecution based on the same offenses.
8. Sentencing: If you are
found guilty, the sentencing hearing is where the judge determines
and imposes the appropriate punishment. You may be sentenced
to probation instead of a term in state prison. Different crimes
carry different possible penalties. You are entitled to a sentencing
hearing to propose why you believe the judge should give you
the lowest possible penalty.
9. Collateral Consequences:
In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, conviction
can have a number of additional consequences. In felony cases,
these consequences can include, but are not limited to: loss
of the right to vote, loss of the right to possess a firearm,
loss of the right to associate with other known criminals, registration
as a sexual offender, registration as a narcotics offender,
or increased penalties for future convictions.
10. Appeals & Writs: If
convicted, you may file an appeal to an appellate level court
with the argument that the trial court made legal errors. If
the defense can prove that the trial court made legal errors,
or you were denied due process of law or a fair trial, it may
result in the reversal of your conviction.
11. Parole: Parole is a
conditional release from prison which entitles you to serve
the remainder of your term outside of prison. However, you are
still under the supervision of the department of corrections.
12. Expungement: Expungement
is a process where, in some cases, your conviction may be removed
from your record.