Friday, December 2, 2011
The Stages of a Court Case (Explained)
As a former prosecutor I have had the chance to be involved in nearly all aspects of a criminal case. That insight - those years working to lock people up - has helped me to earn my clients the outcomes they want - not just want the government is willing to offer.
I. The Arrest/Investigation
Most of myr clients have already gone through this process by the time they speak with me. This is the evidence gathering phase, where the police are trying to find out what they need to know about whether you've committed a crime. It is vitally important to your defense that you do not speak with the police officers or any other agent of the government without first speaking with an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney about your case.
II. The Charges
Once the law enforcement have decided that they are going to arrest you, they will charge you with whatever felony or misdemeanor they believe that you've committed. Many times they will only charge you with one or two things and then turn it over to a prosecutor for the rest.
III. The Grand Jury
In the case of major felonies (such as murder) the prosecutor only has input in the charges, the final word is usually placed in the hands of a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury will, if it believes you may have committed a crime, issue an indictment for all of the felonies that they believe evidence exists to show that you committed a certain act. In some, very rare, cases the Grand Jury will not issue an indictment - meaning that they do not believe probable cause exists, however this is VERY rare.
After you have been indicted you will be summoned to an arraignment. At this point you should definitely consult with an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney. At this stage you will be given the choice between entering a plea of “Guilty”, “Not Guilty”, or “No Contest”. In general it is in your best interests to consult with an attorney, if you have not yet you should probably consider what happens if you plea guilty vs not guilty. If you plea guilty you will be convicted of all the charges against you – the judge will not throw cases out (despite what non-lawyers might say). If you plea not-guilty your case continues.
One thing that most defendants don't understand is that pleading "not guilty" does not usually set you at odds with the government - even if the evidence is overwhelming that you committed the act that they're charging you with. Remember, everyone should be considered innocent until whihc time the state proves guilt - beyond a reasonable doubt. Up until that time, there is room to negotiate an outcome for your case - which may not mean you'll have to suffer the most serious consequence.
V. Pre-Trials through the Trial
After you have hired a Minnesota Defense Attorney he will prepare for trial by demanding discovery, or the evidence, that the government has. This means he will obtain police reports, statements, videos, DNA, or whatever other evidence that the State might have. Also, he will begin preparing your defense by speaking to your witnesses, examining your evidence and advising you of the status of your case.
In felony cases it is common to have multiple pretrial hearings before a trial, or suppression hearing is set. Be patient, it is a long process.
The Right, Next Step
If you have been arrested, charged, or are under indictment, you need to talk to an attorney. I would be more than glad to speak to you about your case. As a former assistant prosecuting attorney I know exactly what is at stake for you and I would be honored to become your Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer. Call today at (612) 234-1165 for your free consultation.