Articles 14 November 2009
Everyone is afforded constitutional protections, whether you are a United States citizen or not, when arrested and charged with a crime.
A person will be taken in custody in two ways: he or she is arrested at the scene or a judge will issue an arrest warrant for a person who was charged with a crime. A police officer will attempt to locate the subject of the warrant. The police may provide the person a copy of the warrant, however, the police are not required to do so.
The subject will then be “booked” at the police department where you are fingerprinted, photographed and bail is set. Unless the individual is able to pay the bail amount, the person will be held in custody pending the arraignment held within 48 hours of arrest.
Once a person is arrested, the person must be advised of their “Miranda” rights. Simply, the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during questioning.
At arraignment, the judge will advise the person (“defendant”) of the alleged crime(s) committed. The defendant has a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney at every criminal proceeding. This right may be waived but a hearing will be held before the judge affirms this request. Next, the defendant enters a plea of “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no contest.” This is also the time a bail reduction may be requested.
If negotiations fail between the defense and the government, the case proceeds to trial. The government must prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A jury will decide if the government has met its burden of proof. In some cases, a defendant may waive the right to a jury trial and have the judge decide the person’s guild or innocence. A defendant should consult with their attorney before waiving this right.
If the judge or jury concludes that the defendant is guilty, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled. At this hearing, any interested party may be heard before the judge enters a sentence.
For a misdemeanor, the maximum jail time is one year county jail and may include monetary penalties, restitution, community service or any other penalty the court deems just. For a felony, the judge, if appropriate and based on the facts of the case, may sentence the defendant to death, life without parole, or be incarcerated in state prison for many years.
A criminal charge against you should be taken very seriously and an experienced criminal defense attorney that can negotiate effectively, possess extensive experience in criminal arena and have a winning trial record is required to insure that your legal rights are protected.