The Criminal Process
Most cases begin with an arrest. Maybe you are arrested on the street, or in your home after police obtain a warrant. This is just the beginning of a long and grueling process.
Arraignment and Indictment
After an arrest, an arrestee is now a defendant. The first stop in the criminal proceeding is an arraignment before a judge where you are informed of your rights and the charges against you. This is also where you are asked to enter a plea. In felony cases, the next step is a grand jury proceeding where grand jurors decide whether there is probable cause to continue. If they find there is probable cause, they issue a "true bill," better known as an indictment.
If a case gets this far and we can't obtain a plea deal from the District Attorney, the next step is to request discovery. This is where the DA has to turn over and disclose the evidence against a defendant so that a defense can be mounted.
Hearings & Trial
Once all the steps have been completed and the negotiations haven't worked, we proceed to have pre-trial hearings. This is where we try to exclude evidence or testimony that we believe is improper or has been illegally obtained.
Once hearings are complete, its time for trial. This is your "day in court." At a trial, the District Attorney presents their case against you first. They call witnesses, present evidence, and make their case why they believe you are guilty. They must prove their case "beyond a reasonable doubt."
After the DA presents their case, the defense has the opportunity to mount a defense. They can also call witnesses, present evidence, and raise reasonable doubt about why the defendant is not guilty.
In most cases, a defendant has the right to a trial by jury. After both sides have presented their cases and rested, the judge will instruct the jury on the law that applies and leave the case to them to make a decision. The decision they make is called a verdict. They will either decide that the defendant is guilty, in which case the judge will issue an appropriate sentence, or they will decide the defendant is not guilty, in which case the case is over and you can go home.