Criminal Cases: From Start to Finish
The criminal prosecution process can be bewildering to someone who has never faced criminal charges. From the arrest to the trial and sentencing, the defendant has to wait and be patient. Facing criminal charges can make you feel like your life is on hold, and this makes the confusion and sluggish process all the worse. You have the right to a speedy trial, which is protected under the Sixth Amendment. Regardless, year after year we see incredibly long criminal trials in the media, some cases taking years to resolve from start to finish. This begs the question of just what does a “speedy” trial mean? Criminal trials vary in length, but most do not take years. To get a better idea of the factors that can influence how long a criminal trial will take let's look out how criminal trials are handled in California.
The Timeline of a Trial
The rules of trial procedure set forth timelines for how much time can pass before a defendant is brought to trial. This ensures the efficiency of the judicial process and ensures evidence can be preserved. These timelines are different for felonies and misdemeanors.
- The court must bring a felony defendant to trial within 60 days of the arraignment.
- The court must bring a misdemeanor defendant who is in custody at the time of the arraignment to trial within 30 days of the arraignment. This deadline is extended to 45 days if the defendant was not in custody.
The courts have to adhere to these timelines unless the defendant waives his or her right to a speedy trial. This simply means these deadlines do not need to be followed by the court. Even when waived, the trial must still be held within ten days of the trial date being set. The advantages of waiving this right will vary based on the case. You should speak with a criminal trial attorney before you decide to waive your right to a speedy trial.
Most of the time involved in a criminal trial is in preparation. Information needs to be gathered, witnesses identified and prepped, and conferences must be held. There will also be one or more pre-trial hearings. The actual length of the trial days in court can vary but will be heavily influenced by the complexity of the case. A trial can last up to several weeks, but most straightforward cases will conclude within a few days. In a typical trial, lawyers on both sides will present their argument with supportive evidence and question witnesses. How long this process will take will depend, again, on the complexity of the case, what evidence is being presented, and what the witnesses have to say. Once both sides have done this, the jury is left to decide.
Bear in mind, most cases are resolved before trial. The court is often motivated to avoid the costs of trial, and so you may be able to resolve your case before going to trial in a way that still favors you. Not every case will have a good chance at trial, and so it is very important to speak with a trial attorney about your case before you decide what to do. Though you may be able to get through your trial quickly, it is never a sure thing.
Speak with a criminal defense attorney with experience in trials if you have questions about how long your case will take if you go to trial. Small complexities in your case could mean your trial will be a little more complicated and, therefore, can take longer and could potentially cost more. Speaking with an attorney is the only way to get a good idea of how long it will take for your case to be tried. An attorney can also advise you of your options should you decide not to go to trial. Again, the prosecution might offer you a plea bargain in lieu of trial. With a plea bargain, you plead guilty to a lesser offense. When trial isn't a safe bet, this is often a wise decision for the defendant.
Are you going to trial? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your rights and help you fight your charges. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights at trial and help you get the outcome you want. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.