Criminal Court Overview
I’ve been charged with a crime, so what happens now?
The worst has happened- you’ve been charged with a crime. If this is your first foray into the criminal justice world, there is nothing scarier than the unknown. They say that knowledge is power and when it comes to the criminal justice system, truer words have never been spoken.
When you know what to expect, you are better able to make the important decisions without fear of the unknown coming into play. The very first thing you need to do is call an experienced criminal defense attorney. The first thing a good criminal defense attorney will tell you is to keep your mouth closed about the facts of your case. The ONLY person you should be discussing your case with is your attorney.
Your involvement in the criminal justice system may have come about in one or two ways. First, you may have been issued a citation by law enforcement. These are typically issued in misdemeanor cases and come attached to a summons which indicates when you need to appear in Court, before a Judge, to be formally charged with a crime. Although there are some exceptions to this general rule, citations are typically given in misdemeanor cases where the “crime” did not occur in the presence of law enforcement, or the police officer you were dealing with was a “nice guy”. It is important that you attend the court date listed on your summons unless you want to find yourself in the local jail on a failure to appear.
The second way you may have become involved in the criminal justice system is via an arrest. If you were arrested you were likely transported to your local precinct before being taken to the county jail, though this is not always the case. An arrest can occur for either a misdemeanor crime or a felony crime. If you are arrested, there are two things to keep in mind: the phones have ears and the walls have eyes. Anything you say over the phone in the jail is recorded and can/will be used against you later. Additionally, anything you say to a friendly inmate could come back to bite you as most people who are being housed in the jail are always looking for a way to make their own circumstances better, even if it means offering testimony against you. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is one that many people don’t know. A misdemeanor is a crime that, as a maximum, is punishable by up to one year in the county jail. By contrast, a felony is a crime that is punishable by a year or more in state prison. Just because there are maximum penalties of incarceration does not mean that that is how your case will resolve.
There are generally only three ways a criminal case can be resolved. The first is an outright dismissal. In a perfect world the prosecutor would review the police report and decide that they cannot provide the crime that you are there for and decide to dismiss your case and issue you an apology. This is the least likely scenario. The second potential resolution is that you will enter a plea, or admission, of some type in exchange for an agreed-upon resolution. We estimate that 85% (or more) of cases resolve in this manner. The third way your case could resolve is by having a trial and letting the judge, or a jury of your peers, decide if you are guilty of the crime(s) brought against you. Though it is a risk to take your case to trial, because you give up control of the outcome, it is sometimes the only option you have if you want to assert your innocence and you should make sure that you hire an attorney who has tried, and won, criminal cases in the past.
If you are interested in discussing the facts of your criminal case, and the options that you may
have, an experienced criminal defense attorney from Crawford, Modica and Holt would be
pleased to sit down with you and help you make the decisions that are right for you.