What Happens in Criminal Proceedings for Felony Cases?

The criminal proceedings for felony cases work differently as compared to the procedure involved in minor offences (petty crime) or juvenile cases. The process here can be very complex and it is often very difficult to deal with the same without expert legal help. However, it is entirely up to you to decide whether you want to represent yourself, waive your right to counsel, or hire a lawyer. It all starts when a crime is committed and reported, which follows by an investigation and then arrest. All these things happen in a very rapid sequence if someone commits a crime in front of police or a law enforcement officer. After that, the following steps typically occur.

Basic Details Are Recorded

It is an administrative procedure where important details are recorded, such as the details of the crime the accused is charged with, his/her fingerprints, photograph, name, age, address, telephone number, and other relevant information.

Arraignment and Preliminary Hearing

The accused is presented in for the criminal proceedings with a written accusation that is filed by a police officer, a prosecutor, or a guard jury. The written accusation includes the details of the type of offence committed and how the accused is involved in it. During the preliminary hearing, the prosecution also presents evidences to prove the defendant’s involvement in the crime he/she has been charged with. The defendant then enters a plea. There are three possibilities; the plea may be filed for “no contest” (nolo contendere), “not guilty”, or “guilty”. The court will set a date for trial in case a “not guilty” plea is entered.

Detention or Bail

Depending upon the charges filed, the court may order to detain the defendant, keeping him/her in jail until the conclusion of the trial. The defendant may also file a petition for bail. As per the procedure of bail, the accused is asked to pay a certain amount of money to remain free until the trail. It is entirely up to the judges to determine the exact amount of bail; it may range from just a couple of hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

Trial

The trial in criminal proceedings for felony cases starts with opening statements by both the prosecution and the defense attorney, which follows by a close review of the evidences presented, statements from witnesses, and then closing statements. After due deliberation, the judges then enter a verdict whether the defendant is guilty, not guilty, or guilty for a related crime but in lesser extent. In first two cases, the accused has the option to challenge the verdict by posting a motion for a new trial.

Sentencing

In cases where the accused files a guilty plea or is convicted, the jury determines the sentence that may include a jail term (spending a certain period of time in jail) with or without monetary fine. However, if the convict presents evidences in support of his/her good prior behavior, the court may decide to impose a lesser sentence. In some cases, the convict may even be released subject to certain terms of probation.

If the convict feels that the judgment in the criminal proceedings is not fair, he/she can file an appeal in higher level courts.