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What Are the Basic Steps Involved in a Criminal Defense Case?

What Are the Basic Steps Involved in a Criminal Defense Case?

Maybe you have just been arrested for a DUI or OVI. Or perhaps police have taken you into custody following a rigorous white-collar crime investigation. Either way, you may feel nervous, intimidated and uneasy. You may be unaware of the charges against you or what consequences lurk around the next corner. Having even a basic understanding of the criminal justice system, however, can help allay your fears. An attorney can explain the following basic steps involved in a criminal defense case:

  • Arrest and booking — Police arrest you, read you your rights and bring you to the police station. All the relevant information is then gathered, including your name, address, fingerprints and photo.
  • Preliminary hearing — A preliminary hearing may be held to determine if enough evidence exists to warrant the charges against you.
  • Arraignment — During the arraignment, you are formally informed of the charges against you. At this proceeding, you also enter your plea before the judge — guilty, not guilty or no contest.
  • Discovery — If you plead not guilty, the discovery process begins. The purpose of discovery is to gather information through depositions, interrogatories and other means.
  • Trial – If plea negotiations fail, your case goes to trial.

Remember that every criminal defense case is different. After assessing your case, your lawyer may determine that accepting a plea bargain is your best option. Alternatively, he or she may determine that you can win at trial. If you anticipate your case going to trial, you absolutely must engage an experienced and competent defense attorney.


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