Stages in a Criminal Case

This article will reveal to you the key stages in a criminal case. Criminal cases are all very different from each other; however, there are certain stages that all the cases undergo. Thus, the steps in a criminal case are the following:

  • Arrest
  • Booking
  • Bail
  • Arraignment
  • Plea bargain
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Trial sentencing
  • Appeal

As soon as someone is arrested by a police officer, a criminal case begins. For a person being arrested means being taken into custody and not being free to leave. Then processing or booking takes place. This phase involves searching the suspect, making copies of his/her fingerprints, taking photos of him/her and gathering basic information such as name, surname, date of birth, etc. Also, the description of the alleged crime is attached to all the things mentioned above.

Depending on the seriousness of the charges, the defendant may be able to pay bail to the court in order to be released. The suspect then gets back the amount after returning to the court for the next time. If the suspect cannot afford to pay the bail amount, then he/she should be held either in the police station or in the local jail until the first hearing takes place.

The next stage is the arraignment. The first courtroom appearance of the defendant in front of the judge is called arraignment. Here the judge reads the charges for the defendant. In this stage the judge may ask the defendant if the latter needs an attorney and how he/she is going to plead to the charges. Then the court announces the dates for the future court hearings and procedures.

After an arraignment the prosecuting attorney and the defendant’s counsel will usually attempt plea bargain negotiations. The majority of criminal cases are resolved in this way because the criminal court system is overwhelmed with numerous cases and only 10% of them go to trial.

In the stage of preliminary hearing, the prosecutor will try to convince the judge that there is plenty of evidence showing that the crime has been committed by the defendant.

Thus, if the sides cannot reach a plea bargain agreement, then the case will most likely go to trial. Then the jury will look at the evidence and announce a verdict. If, according to the verdict, the defendant is announced not guilty, then he/she is released from custody. But if the verdict announces the defendant to be guilty, then the process moves into another level which is called sentencing. In this stage either judge or jury decides the type of punishment for the defendant. The sentences may be different. The defendant may be put into jail or he/she may have to do community service or pay fines or undergo drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

And the last one of the stages in a criminal case is the appeal. In the appeal the defendant usually asks the higher court to review his/her case in order to get better results.

These are the main stages in a criminal case. If you want to know more about various laws and legal procedures, bookmark our website for newer updates.


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