If you are facing a criminal charge, you may be wondering what will happen to your case as it is handled by the criminal justice system. If you are being criminally prosecuted, you will first be arraigned by the court. At the arraignment, the charges against you will be reviewed and you will be notified of your rights. One of your rights is the right to a speedy trial, under the Sixth Amendment. You will also be asked if you will waive this right, meaning your trial will be scheduled to fit into the availability of court space, which may or not be quickly. The "speedy" part is not an exact term; only so much court space is available within a certain amount of time and so a trial can be set for anywhere between a week out to a year out, depending on the case and how complex it might be. Furthermore, a trial that is expected to last a week or more may be scheduled further out than one that is expected to last one day. Long trials inherently involve more evidence, more facts and more witnesses and sufficient time needs to be granted to allow for the exchange of all this information, which is called the process of discovery. You will also be asked how you will plea at your arraignment. If you plead guilty or no contest, you will be convicted and sentenced. If you plead not guilty to your charge, and do not have the opportunity to enter a plea bargain or have some form of alternative sentencing, your case will go to trial. Criminal trials can last less than a day to up to multiple weeks. The severity of your crime or crimes you are being charged with will determine, for the most part, the length and complexity of the trial. If you want your case to go to trial, you can plead not guilty to your charge and ask a trial date be set. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney if you wish to take your case to trial to make sure you are following all the proper steps to do this. Many criminal cases go to trial. When a lot is on the line, pleading not guilty and taking your case to trial can sometimes allow you the chance to work out a strategic defense for your case.
Misdemeanors and felonies will be handled different during the trial process. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor crime, generally a less serious crime, you may have little to do prior to trial. However, if you are being charged with a felony, you will also have to attend a preliminary hearing before the trial. This is a second hearing that goes beyond the basics of the arraignment. At this hearing, the court will determine whether there is probable cause that you committed the crime or crimes in question. In absence of sufficient evidence or probable cause, the case may be dismissed. If there is probable cause that you committed the crime, you will proceed to trial and be processed through the criminal trial court system, which sets in motion a series of additional steps prior to the actual trial date or dates. Prior to a criminal trial, a number of steps will take place. These steps are called pretrial procedures and must be completed for your case to go to trial. There will be deadlines to meet and forms to file so make sure you are well informed on the trial process; not completing the pretrial procedures can have serious consequences. It is always highly advisable to have an experienced trial attorney take your case to trial. Try to consult with a trial attorney with sufficient experience trying cases like yours. Discuss their game plan and make sure they will know what they are doing. If, after consulting with an attorney about taking your case to trial, they suggest trial would not be a good option, they may be able to help you enter a guilty plea to a lesser crime, also known as a plea bargain. Trial isn't advisable in every case; with a trial, you are leaving your fate in the hands of a judge and/or jury. In some cases, it is best to try your luck at entering a plea bargain. A skilled trial attorney will be able to evaluate your case and inform you on your chances at winning at trial. A number of factors will need to be considered so make sure you are aware of your chances before you decide to take your case to trial.
Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and have questions about your criminal case going to trial? At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we have significant experience bringing criminal cases to trial and will not be afraid to take your case all the way. Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties trials and can strategize a solid defense for your case. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss your case.