Martinian & Associates Inc. Articles Understanding the Criminal Process

Understanding the Criminal Process

By Martinian & Associates  Mar. 15, 2012 2:00p

The criminal process usually begins with an arrest, although some cases can start with a local or federal investigation. If you have been arrested, or you are currently under investigation by any organization, it is important for you to understand the criminal process and your rights in their entirety. The officer will find probable cause or have a warrant for your arrest. In order for an officer to have probable cause, he or she will need evidence, either circumstantial or physical. Do not speak with law enforcement at this time, as it is in your constitutional right to prevent yourself from self-incrimination; more commonly known as your right to remain silent. It is extremely dangerous to talk to officials, even if you believe that you are providing information that can secure your freedom; chances are that the officer may spin it into a direction that may make you look guilty.

Once arrested, you, or the defendant, will then be processed and booked. After the officer has filed the complaint with the court, a formal hearing, called an arraignment, will take place. This is where the defendant is charged with the crime. At this hearing, bail may be set. Bail is a type of security used to ensure that a person who is jailed shows up for their appropriate court procedures. Even this early on in the criminal process is it vitally important for you to have a criminal defense lawyer on your side. Attending your arraignment without an experienced attorney can result in several things – higher bail amount, enhanced charges, or the possibility of no bail at all. At this meeting, it will be decided based on the offense you have allegedly committed and your prior criminal record whether you will be a flight risk, as a person who is a flight risk will naturally have a higher bail amount.

After the arraignment is complete and bail has been set, it is up to you to determine if you will post bail either through the help of a family member or a bond. Your attorney will then walk you through the preliminary hearing and the discovery phase. Discovery is the period in which evidence is presented on behalf of both the defense and the prosecution. The preliminary hearing is the time in which your attorney can challenge the validity of the arrest in itself to determine if your constitutional rights were violated in the officer's attempt to arrest you. If the evidence is successfully challenged, the charges may be dismissed altogether. However, if the judge decides that the officer did have probable cause, it will be sent to Superior Court.

At the Superior Court arraignment, you will be formally charged, have the bail adjusted, or even have additional charges added on to your original sentence, based on any evidence that has been presented thus far. At this step, you will then plead guilty or not guilty, and most likely move forward to the pretrial conference. This is where your attorney will be able to negotiate a lesser charge or you may even enter into a plea agreement at this time. After this has been completed, the case will then be taken to trial, which follows a very strict format for every criminal case.

The trial occurs when a jury is selected by both the prosecutor and the defense attorney, and begins with opening arguments. Witnesses are called upon and evidence is presented to the jury during this portion of the criminal process. When the case is coming to a close, the jury will have to decide if the defendant is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt and must make a unanimous decision. If found guilty, you will move on to the sentencing portion in which you will be able to request a lower sentence or possibly probation with the help of your defense attorney. The judge will then sentence you based on what is believed to be the true punishment for the crime committed.

If you believe that you have been sentenced unfairly or that a legal error occurred during the trial, you have the chance to appeal the decision. At this point, you can carefully craft a document with the help of a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to show that you have researched and proven true that some type of error was made during the trial. If it is approved by the court, there is a chance that the conviction may be reversed. There is also the option of conducting an entirely new trial. It will be up to your attorney's legal research to determine if you can walk free after your criminal accusation or not.

After being charged with a crime, it is imperative that you seek the legal representation of a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney from Martinian & Associates. This law firm has many years of experience in this highly difficult and specialized area of the law that they are prepared to share with you today. If you are facing any type of felony or misdemeanor charge in Los Angeles, they are ready to help! Contact a member of their law firm today to obtain a free consultation of your criminal case.

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