When dealing with criminal proceedings, the system is designed to hold a series of hearings to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected. The court also wants to learn that the state is bringing a case that has a chance of holding water. You may feel confused, though, when your criminal defense attorney explains just how many hearings it may take to deal with the case leveled against you. Let's look at some of the big milestones you'll see along the way.
This is the initial hearing, and the goal is to hold it as close to the day of a defendant's arrest as possible. Most laws require the defendant to appear before the judge within 48 hours after the arrest.
Foremost, this is the first time that a prosecutor will tell the defendant what the formal charges are that they'll be facing. There is no expectation at this time that the defendant will respond to the allegations. This statement is for informational purposes so a defendant and their criminal defense attorney can start figuring out what to do next.
If you meet the requirements for bail, it will be offered at your arraignment. Bear in mind that the judge has a duty to consider whether a person might be a flight risk or pose a threat to the community, and they may forgo an offer of bail if there are concerns. If bail is not offered, you do have the right to insist upon a new hearing where your objections to not receiving a bail offer will be heard. Most defendants avoid this hearing as it will be held by the same judge.
Questions about probable cause are explored during the preliminary hearing. If there are questions, for example, about how the police obtained a warrant or chose to conduct a search, this would be the time to raise them. Defendants have the right to question how a case was made to the point that an indictment was formed.
If any remaining concerns about the evidence in a case exist, pre-trial hearings may be held. These hearings establish what will be admitted into evidence at a later trial.
Assuming the case has held water and that the defendant and the prosecution haven't entered into a plea agreement, a trial will be conducted. Notably, many agreements in sticky cases are reached as a jury selection begins.
For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney.