If you are charged with a crime, you may be exposed to jail time, probation, and/or points on your driving record. Sharon T. Diamant, of Diamant Gerstein, is an experienced former prosecutor. She focuses on defending the rights and freedom of persons accused of misdemeanor and felony crimes, including:
- Drunk driving/drugged driving, driving while suspended, revoked, without a license
- All drug charges, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, prescription medications
- Violations of parole and probation
- Theft, fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation of finances, bad checks
- Juvenile matters, including child in need of assistance (CINA) proceedings
- Violations of peace orders/ protective orders
- Assault, trespass, malicious destruction of property
Stages of a Criminal Case Investigation
Throughout the initial investigation of a crime, the police will compile and review materials for the case, including interviewing witnesses and assembling evidence against the suspect(s). When the police believe they have sufficient evidence, they can request a judge to sign an arrest warrant.
Arrest and Then Bond
Following the arrest, the suspect will go before the judge. The judge will either set a bond for release or determine the defendant must remain incarcerated until the time of the trial. The bond is an amount of money the suspect must post in order to obtain release from prison. The amount of the bond depends upon multiple factors, including the severity of the crime of which the suspect is accused, how strong the prosecutor’s case is, whether the suspect has a criminal history, and whether the judge deems the suspect a flight risk. If the suspect is present for future court dates, the money is refunded, but if the suspect flees, the money will not be returned.
At an arraignment, the suspect appears before the judge. The judge will inform the accused of the charges against him or her, ask the accused if he or she has an attorney or would like to request a court-appointed attorney, ask how the accused pleads to the charges, determine whether to change the initial bail bond amount, and set a schedule for the future court dates.
A judge or magistrate will conduct a preliminary hearing where the prosecution must display there is sufficient evidence in support of the charges against the suspect for the case to proceed to the next stage. The defendant’s attorney may at this time cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. This stage may also be called a “preliminary examination” or “probable cause hearing.”
On occasion the defendant and the prosecution can negotiate terms of an agreement to resolve the criminal matter. Typically, the prosecutor will agree to reduce a charge, drop some of the charges against the defendant, or recommend to the judge a more lenient sentence. These concessions would be in exchange for a guilty plea from the defendant, oftentimes a plea to a lesser offense. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be a valuable asset to a defendant in negotiating during the plea-bargaining process.
Trial and Sentencing
At the trial, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will deliver opening and closing statements, show evidence, and question the witnesses. In the event a defendant is found to be guilty, the court will hand down a sentence, which may take the form of incarceration, fines, court fees, restitution, and probation. The sentencing for minor crimes may be issued immediately, while for more serious crimes, the prosecution and defense will submit to the court evidence and arguments to argue for an appropriate sentence. In some states, the judge decides the sentence, while in other states the sentencing process ensues separately from the trial with a different jury that will determine the sentence. In this separate sentencing stage, prosecution will present aggravating factors to contend for her sentence and the defense will present mitigating factors to argue for a lesser sentence. Prior the sentence’s being issued, the accused has the right to allocution, when the defendant can speak to the judge directly. This provides the defendant an opportunity to explain him or herself, show remorse, or apologize.