So, You've Been Charged with a Crime: Frequently Asked Questions About the Next Steps

Posted on: 28 October 2016

If you are being charged with a crime for the first time, the days following might seem like a blur. Your first course of action is to speak to a lawyer. In the meantime, the answers to these questions will help you make smart decisions.

Question: The police are asking questions about the incident. Should I speak to them?

Answer: Any legal professional will tell you not to speak to the police without your lawyer present. That's what you see on TV too, right? It's true that you should refrain from making statements or even signing documents without first talking to your lawyer.

Question: At what point can the police make an arrest? What happens after that?

Answer: If the police officers feel that there is probable cause to arrest you, they can do so or ask you to turn yourself in. Following an arrest, you will have an arraignment within the next two days. You may be released on bail if you are not at risk to leave the area.

Question: What is an arraignment? What will I have to do?

Answer: The arraignment is the point at which you and your lawyer will receive the charges filed against you. You will receive a police report, and your lawyer will have the ability to argue that you should be out on bail. If your bail is approved, you may be able to go home.

Question: Will I have a preliminary hearing?

Answer: If you have been charged with a crime, you may go to a preliminary hearing following the arraignment. At this hearing, a judge or grand jury will determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that you may have been involved. At this time, your lawyer will work to bat down the evidence being used against you. If the judge or grand jury believe that a trial should go on, you will come back later to fight the charges.

Question: What are pre-trial motions?

Answer: The pre-trial motions meeting is intended to allow your lawyer to argue which pieces of evidence should not be allowed at the formal trial. At this time, your lawyer may be able to have the case dismissed due to lack of evidence or to make a plea bargain. This often leads to a lighter charge or reduced sentence.

After the pre-trial motions, you will be given a trial date. This is where the attorney designates a jury, presents evidence, and discusses witnesses. This is where the jury decides whether you are guilty of the crime or not. Contact an attorney such as Thomas A Corletta to get started with your defense case.