For those who are unfamiliar, the criminal justice system might be difficult to understand. The following steps in the prosecution process against criminal charges can help explain how cases typically progress through the court. Once formal charges have been filed, a hearing called an arraignment is held. The judge will read the costs at arraignment and listen to your plea.
The pre-trial conference is the next court date after your formal arraignment. It allows your criminal defense lawyer to meet with the prosecutor and discuss the case. In many cases, the prosecutor will extend a plea offer at this time. You and your attorney from JSBerryLaw.com will consider this offer in consultation before deciding whether to accept or reject it and set the matter for trial. At the pre-trial conference, the prosecutor must disclose all the evidence they intend to present at trial to you and your attorney. It includes any police reports, laboratory reports, and witness statements they plan to call as part of their case against you. Your attorney will also be able to request the same evidence from the prosecution now. It is called discovery and may take weeks or months to obtain. The goal of the pre-trial conference is to resolve your case without going to trial. It can often be achieved through continued discussions between you and the DA to reach a plea bargain. Still, it is also possible for your criminal defense attorney to inform the judge that no resolution has been reached and that the case will go to trial.
At this stage in the prosecution process, the defense attorney can file pre-trial motions that impact what the jury sees and hears at trial. These motions can include a motion to suppress evidence obtained illegally or a motion to limit the testimony of certain witnesses at trial. A criminal defense lawyer must be able to anticipate the prosecutor’s filing of these types of activities and quickly respond to them. A pre-trial conference aims to bring the prosecutor and the defense together to explore possibilities for resolving the case without going to trial. It can involve either charge plea bargaining or sentence plea bargaining. Charge plea bargaining consists of the defendant pleading guilty or no contest to an offense less severe than what they were originally charged with. Sentence plea bargaining focuses on reducing the length of any jail time that would be served. At this point, a magistrate judge will review the motions and may conduct a hearing to resolve any issues not agreed upon by both parties. The magistrate will then submit a report and recommendations to the judge, who will decide whether to grant the motions and set the case for trial. The judge will also determine where the trial will take place.
The prosecution must persuade the judge or jury to prove the defendant’s guilt at trial. It is done by calling witnesses and introducing evidence. Witnesses are usually called to testify under oath. The defense can question and cross-examine witnesses. The reason can also present witnesses and evidence of the defendant’s innocence. After a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor must file formal charges, known as an Information. The judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to support the costs and if the defendant is likely to commit a crime again (probable cause). Sometimes, the prosecutor will secure a Grand Jury indictment before the preliminary hearing, in which case the Grand Jury will find probable cause at its initial meeting. The defense may request that the prosecution be required to provide certain items for its case (discovery). It is a legal process where the reason asks for the right to see certain information, documents or evidence related to the point. The prosecution will then be obligated to respond and present its side of the story.