There’s no good time to learn about what the criminal process is and what to expect when a criminal charge has been made. But in general, there’s an arrest for an alleged crime and a prosecutor will decide what the criminal charges filed will be.
If you’ve been arrested for a crime. Your primary concern will be to quickly find an attorney ho handled multiple cases, has won cases, has had courtroom vs. classroom experience and who will fight for you.
You don’t know what’s going to happen so you need to find a lawyer quickly. There are many, many Orlando criminal defense attorneys but to get the best you’ll need to know a little about the process. By learning about the criminal process, you’ll be prepared to ask your attorney questions and have an understanding of what you’ll be facing.
What happens after an arrest in a criminal case? A case goes to a grand jury for a to a preliminary hearing or criminal indictment where a judge decides if the evidence shows the case should proceed.
After an arrest a police officer should read you your rights. The Miranda warning or the Miranda rights is a warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody or who are in a custodial interrogation before they are interrogated to inform them about their constitutional rights. Many people believe incorrectly that they can say that rights weren’t read to them, or were read incorrectly. You’d need proof and you’d need to be certain. Falsely reporting this can cause you additional trouble.
The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.
There’s an arrest report that a prosecutor initiates to begin to prosecute a criminal case. Arrest reports carefully detail what happened in the crime and hold as many elements as possible: witnesses’ names and addresses, time, dates, location, and where things were found, weapons, injuries, etc.
- May file charges on crimes for cases involving police arrests or file charges more or less severe than the charges set by the police
- Can decide to drop the case
- Can pursue the case and charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor and file a complaint with the trial court
- Can decide the case should be charged as a felony and bring evidence to a grand jury
Charges Are Filed
All charges usually need to be filed by prosecutors within 72 hours or less of arrest for suspects who are in custody. But a prosecutors’ charges are subject to change. A prosecutor might decide charges after a preliminary hearing, even a month after an arrest.
Determining Whether to File Charges
A prosecutor’s decision to file charges may be influenced by factors beyond the specific facts of the incident described in the police report.
Requirements of justice: Decisions are influenced by a prosecutor’s feeling for what justice requires in a case. Prosecutors enforce the law and due justice meaning a prosecutor will decide not to prosecute a case or file less severe charges because justice requires it. The facts of a case might support a conviction. However, if a law-abiding person makes a mistake, a prosecutor may decide it would not serve any purpose to spend time and money prosecuting this not-likely-to re-offend person.
Politics: Prosecutors are elected therefore decisions on charges can be driven by opinions of the community. A prosecutor may file charges for every drug arrest to cut crime in a neighborhood or city to get a strict prosecuting message out to the community.
Criminal Policies: There are certain crimes that prosecution offices adopt policies in response to community pressure. The policies can dictate a prosecutor’s approach. For example, an office may decide that arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will always be taken to trial and not plea bargained down to a lesser offense.
The Grand Jury
Prosecutors sometimes leave felonies to grand juries who decide if charges are filed. Grand juries are similar to regular trial juries–”petit juries.” They are made up of randomly selected individuals who listen to evidence and decide if charges should be brought against someone. This is also called indicting.
While petit juries sit on one case, grand juries involve time commitments of 6-18 months. The grand jurors may see many cases in the course of service. Here are other differences:
- Grand juries: 15-23 people
- Petit Juries: 6 – 12 people
- Grand juries: meet vs. Petit juries serving public trials
- Petit juries usually need to be unanimous for a conviction
- Grand juries don’t have to unanimous to indict. Federal courts, an indictment is returned if 12 or more jurors agree to indict
- Petit jurors decide a defendants guilt
- Grand juries decide if there is evidence there for a trial
How a Grand Jury Works
If a prosecutor brings a case to a grand jury he presents jurors with the charges and then, introduces minimal evidence to get an indictment. Proceedings are secret and it’s standard practice to call witnesses to testify against the suspect without the suspect or the suspect’s lawyer present.
Indicted suspects can sometimes later obtain transcripts of grand jury proceedings. This is a reason prosecutors like to keep evidence to a minimum.
A prosecutor can call the suspect as a witness. When suspects are called, they often refuse to testify by invoking their privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If a grand jury decides to indict, it returns a true bill: the written decision of a grand jury that it has heard sufficient evidence from the prosecution to believe that an accused person probably committed a crime and should be indicted.
The grand jury can return a no-bill determination that there is not adequate evidence to indict someone. But even with a no-bill, a prosecutor may eventually file charges against a suspect. Prosecutors can return to the same grand jury with more evidence, present the same evidence to a second grand jury, or (in jurisdictions that give prosecutors a choice) bypass the grand jury altogether and file a criminal complaint.
If a prosecutor files a complaint vs. presents a case to a grand jury, and the case is a felony, the defendant gets a preliminary hearing. Here the prosecutor has to show that the state has evidence of the crime to warrant a trial.
But if a case proceeds by grand jury indictment, no preliminary hearing need be held. For this reason, many prosecutors choose the grand jury indictment process because they don’t have to reveal as much evidence before the trial.
Research Attorneys Before You Need One
Consult with Florida criminal defense attorney Roddy Lanigan if you or a family member have been arrested. You will be able to decide what you should do if you’re arrested, brought in for questioning or charged with a crime. It’s not a bad idea to research attorneys, meet them, find out more about them before you’re in a legal emergency.