It can be overwhelming when you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense, but knowing what to expect makes the process less frightening. The details of the procedure will depend on what kind of crime and level (i.e. State or Federal) you are charged. However, all adult criminal procedures follow necessary steps of the court as listed below.
Arrest: Police will take you into custody.
Arraignment: Informal charges are filed pending your arrest within a specific time period. If charges are not filed, an attorney can request the Judge order a release.
Preliminary Hearing: At this hearing, a Judge will either set bail or remand you into custody. If bail is set then your bail bond is also posted, meaning you have promised to appear at all subsequent hearings. If you fail to appear for a hearing, there is an immediate warrant for your arrest.
Grand Jury: If charged on a federal level, a grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to bring formal charges against you.
Indictment: This hearing is where formal charges are brought against you and you must answer as to how you will plead.
Plea: There are three ways to plead. One, not-guilty. Two, guilty. And three, nolo-contendere (no -contest).
Trial: The prosecution or government has the burden of proof to show the defendant is guilty. A jury decides the verdict.
Acquittal or Conviction: The jury will either acquit (find you not-guilty) or convict (find you guilty) of the counts charged.
Sentencing: The Judge will determine the sentence although the jury, or statements from relevant individuals to the case, can occasionally influence the sentencing.
Appeal: You have the right to an appeal if you think you have had an unfair trial or sentencing.