by Tina Seymour Demoran, Esquire

Last week, I wrote about what to do when you are arrested.

This week, I’d like to give a brief overview of the actual criminal procedure once you are arrested.  Understand, this will be brief…but at least give you that birds’ eye view of the process.

In the typical criminal case, you will have an initial appearance.  This is where you find out what you are charged with and your bond amount–if the judge decides to allow you to post bail.

During the bail process, you pay money to ensure that you’ll make future court appearances.

The next hearing is the preliminary hearing–but in some counties, posting bail automatically waives the preliminary hearing.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will have an arraignment, where you state whether or not you are guilty.  If you plea not guilty, a trial date will be set.

If you are charged with a felony, the case will be presented to the Grand Jury.  The Grand Jury will look at the evidence the State has, and it will decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to formally charge you.

If they say there is, then the next step in the felony process is your arraignment. At this point, the charges against you are read in court and you’ll be asked whether you plead guilty or not guilty.

You can also plead “no contest,”  which basically means you aren’t contesting the charges.

If you plea not guilty, then a trial date will be set.

When your trial date is set, the discovery process starts, and you will be given the opportunity to review all evidence that will be used against you and to make any pre-trial motions.

Guys, if you are charged with a crime…whether large or small…call an attorney THAT DAY or very soon after.  NEVER wait until the day before or a few days before your trial to call an attorney and see how they can assist you in the case.

Last week, I stressed the importance of talking to your attorney before you give a statement, etc.  This week, I stress it again.

Criminal charges can radically change your future.  They can damage your reputation, they can keep you from owning a firearm, they can keep you from passing a background check while applying for a job, and they can cause you to spend a significant time behind bars and/or pay some rather large fines and expenses.

Don’t try to handle this on your own.  Call an attorney and let them review your charges before you enter a plea.

Better yet, have a good criminal lawyer’s name on hand…just in case you need to make that call once the arrest is imminent.

You never know when you just might need an attorney.