General Felony Information
At the felony level, the criminal process begins when police begin an investigation. Police officers will either make an arrest and file their reports and probable cause statement with the prosecutor, or they will file their reports and probable cause statement with the prosecutor and wait for a warrant to be issued before making an arrest.
During the investigation it is critical that you know and exercise your rights. Do not answer questions without talking to your lawyer. If you are being investigated, contact a lawyer as soon as you can.
After receiving reports from the police, the prosecutor will file a complaint in associate circuit court, requesting a subpoena or a warrant, or the prosecutor will take the case to the grand jury. If the case proceeds through the associate circuit (most cases take this route), you will appear before the judge for initial arraignment and counsel status. If you hired an attorney or requested the public defender, your attorney will appear with you and set a date for the preliminary hearing. Other matters that may be taken up at that time could include a request for bond reduction or modification, a waiver of preliminary hearing, or some other motion predicated by an individual review of the specifics of your case.
The preliminary hearing is the first opportunity to challenge the State’s case. The State must show probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed and committed by you. Probable cause is a much lower burden than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as required at trial. While preliminary hearings are valuable, due to the low burden of proof and courtroom procedures allowed, most cases are bound over to the circuit court.
If the prosecutor takes the indictment route, he will present evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury will decide whether or not charges should be brought. If the grand jury indicts you, the case begins in the circuit court.
Circuit Court Arraignment
When you arrive in the circuit court and your case is called for arraignment, the judge will ask if the lawyer with you is representing you in the case. Then the judge will either read the charges, or your lawyer may waive a formal reading of the charges and enter your plea (usually “Not Guilty”). If you are in custody, your lawyer will typically take up a bond request. And your set will be set for the next law day.
After arraignment, the formal discovery process begins. You lawyer will get discovery from the State and begin investigation. Witnesses may be talked to and depositions may be conducted. Of course, throughout the process, you and your lawyer are discussing the facts and developing strategies and theories of defense.
Resolution of your case
A felony case ends with either a dismissal, a plea, or a trial. Generally, a dismissal and plea are the result of your lawyer’s efforts in negotiating with the prosecutor to secure the best possible resolution of your case. The ultimate end of any criminal case is a trial. Contact Nolan Law Firm to discuss your case.