What Are Common Steps Of A Criminal Investigation And Prosecution?
Different levels of offenses have different procedures that are followed in the investigation and prosecution process. Misdemeanor offenses are handled differently than felony offenses, and within felony offenses, there are differences in procedures as well. For a misdemeanor case, the investigation is usually simple and conducted by the patrol officer. Common examples of offenses that will just be handled by patrol are non-injury DUI’s, shoplifting, driving without a license, or driving with a suspended license, or misdemeanor assault. The officer will question witnesses, and document everything in a report. Sometimes the officer is equipped with a body worn camera, so everything that people say is captured on audio. It is up to the patrol officer if you are just issued a citation with a date to appear in court, or if you are arrested.
Usually, detectives will not have to get involved, and there is not much of an investigation to be done. Misdemeanor cases will be in city courts or justice courts, if there are issues in your case, your lawyer may file motions and they will be set to hearings. Depending on the result of those hearings, the charges may be dropped, the State may offer you a better deal, or you may have to go to trial if you still do not want to plead to the charge. You either enter into a plea or set the case for a jury trial; Misdemeanors are simple procedures for attorneys but may be confusing and frustrating for the person who is charged with the offense. Having an experienced attorney can ease a lot of the stress of going through the prosecution process. If you are charged with a felony, it gets a bit more complicated.
A felony investigation usually begins with someone calling the police, or the police observing a crime. A patrol officer will be the initial officer to answer the call, but then the matter usually will get turned over to a detective. The detective will interview witnesses, take photos, gather documents, and look more deeply into the offense. Once the detective believes that there is enough information to charge you with an offense, he or she will present the information to the county attorney’s office. The county attorney’s office has a charging division, and those attorneys make the decisions about which cases they will accept for prosecution, and which cases will be rejected. When the State decides to file charges, your matter may be set to a preliminary hearing. Usually, those preliminary hearings do not go, and the State decides to submit your matter to the Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury is composed of a group of civilians that listen to the officer’s summaries of cases and decide whether to return a “true bill”, if they return a “true bill”, you case will be prosecuted by the state. The matter will be set for an Initial Appearance, and unlike misdemeanor courts, you always must be present at your felony court appearances. Felony matters are conducted in a more formal manner than misdemeanors, and they usually take a longer time to resolve than misdemeanor offenses.
Should I Hire An Attorney Prior To Arrest?
Arrests do not always happen at the time of the offense. You may be questioned by law enforcement, and they leave without arresting you at all. That does not mean that you are not going to be arrested later, pending the outcome of the officer’s investigation. You may never be arrested at all, charges may be filed against you and you can be summoned into court later. If you are in the least bit concerned that you may be charged with a crime, it is an excellent idea to hire an attorney in advance. Often, the attorney can find out if you are going to be charged, and they can prevent you being arrested at work or in some other embarrassing situation. An attorney can accept service for you, so you don’t have to worry about a process server coming to your home.
Best of all, if you hire an attorney in advance of being charged with an offense, the police will have to go through your attorney, they will no longer be able to speak directly with you. This can ease your anxiety and prevent you from potentially making any incriminating statements. Sometimes the attorney can contact the County Attorney’s office and see if your charge can be negotiated and resolved in advance. If you think there is a chance that you could be charged with a crime that is a terrifying and stressful situation. When you can just turn it all over to an experienced attorney, most of that terrible anxiety can be relieved.
Can Having An Attorney Involved Beforehand Help To Mitigate The Charges Involved?
When you go in for a consultation with an attorney, you will explain to him or her your side of the story. Often, your version of events is going to be very different from what the officer writes in his/her report. If your attorney is aware of what really happened, they may be able to diffuse the situation in advance and show the State that the higher charges are not appropriate. Also, felony cases start with the least experienced attorneys who do not have any ability to negotiate at all. An attorney that has a good relationship with the trial attorneys can get you out of the lower levels, and immediately start negotiating with the prosecutors who have discretion to make deals.
For more information on Criminal Investigation & Prosecution, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (623) 428-8203 today.
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