Were you or a loved one recently arrested in Texas? Creating the best possible criminal defense case will require you to understand the criminal process as a whole, so you can know what to expect and plan ahead. Take a look at this basic explanation of the key stages, or contact our Allen criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Kyle K. Shaw, PLLC. We have nearly 20 years of total legal and trial experience to put to use for your defense!
8 Typical Stages of the Criminal Process
- Arrest: If an officer sees you commit a crime, has valid reason to believe you committed a crime, or has been given an official arrest warrant with your name on it, they have the right to arrest you and bring you back to the station. Once you are told your charges and booked, you are considered to be “in custody.”
- Set bail: Most criminal suspects are allowed to pay bail to leave the jail immediately and spend their days in the comfort of their own home as they await their trial. A judge will set a bail amount soon after booking. If you pay bail and adhere to the court’s orders, such as going to all court dates and refraining from breaking any other laws, you will be given your bail amount back when your case concludes, even if you are convicted of a crime.
- Arraignment: This is the first time you will actually go to court. A judge will describe each criminal charge in detail and you will have the choice to answer each of them as guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If a bail was not set initially, it will be set now. It is crucial to have an attorney for your arraignment so they can instruct you on how you should respond to each charge.
- Preliminary hearing: As the name suggests, this is a court procedure that happens before the actual trial. During a preliminary hearing, both sides can make an argument as to why charges should or should not be deemed valid. If the defense provides a better case, the charges may be dismissed; if the prosecution is persistent, the charges can be upheld and a trial date will be set.
- Pretrial motion: If there are any unresolved issues that could be pertinent to the impeding trial, they will need to be addressed during the pretrial motion. Evidence should also be reviewed and either submitted to the court or suppressed, pending a judge’s ruling.
- Trial: Classic scenes from movies about lawyers, convicts, and the criminal justice system generally make a good example of actual trials, when taken with a grain of salt. There will be opening statements, witnesses called to the stand, evidence analyzed, cross-examinations, closing statements, etc. By the end of the trial, the jury or a judge if there is no jury will rule guilty or not guilty.
- Sentencing: If things did not go in favor of the defendant, they will be sentenced, usually immediately after the trial concludes. It is up to the presiding judge to choose the sentencing option but they are expected to follow guidelines and widely-accepted statutes.
- Appealing: Most verdicts are never final. A convicted individual can file for an appeal to a higher court to review the case for errors, not necessarily for an “unfair” ruling. Successful appeals can overturn rulings, start a secondary appeal case, or completely eliminate charges altogether. It is highly advised you only file for an appeal with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.