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CRIMINAL LAW 101

On Behalf of | Dec 20, 2021 | Criminal Law

Criminal law covers any case where someone is accused of a crime, all the way from parking tickets to a murder case. Any criminal case starts with the issuance of a complaint, often in the form of a ticket for the less severe charges. The complaint is prepared by the prosecutor, the county attorney in the county where the crime is claimed to have occurred, or in some cases a city attorney if accusation is a relatively minor offense and it happened in a city that does it’s own prosecution. A criminal case is always prosecuted in the county where the crime is claimed to have occured, even if that is not where the person accused, called the defendant lives.
In many cases a defendant is arrested before the complaint is issued, if a police officer sees you doing what they think is a serious crime they will arrest you and take you to jail, the complaint will come out later, generally within two business days. Once the case is in the system there are a series of court appearances. Arraignment is the first, bail and/or conditions of release are set. Next is generally the Omnibus Hearing in felony or gross misdemeanor cases, that is where legal issues are dealt with, motions to dismiss, keep certain evidence out, or require the disclosure of certain evidence. In a misdemeanor case legal issues are dealt with in what is called an Evidentiary Hearing. In most counties after the Omnibus or Evidentiary, if the case is not dismissed, there will be a plea hearing in felony or gross misdemeanor cases, or a pre-trial in misdemeanor cases. If there is a plea hearing there will be a pre-trial after the plea hearing. The last step in the process is the jury trial. The vast majority of cases do not get to a jury trial (or, if the defendant waives a jury trial, rarely done, a trial to a judge), they are resolved by a plea agreement, or, in some cases by dismissal. Remember, until and unless a defendant pleads guilty, or are convicted after a trial they are presumed innocent.
This is a rough guide, the exact process varies by county. If you are charged with a crime you have a long journey ahead through the court system, the process is confusing, and the stakes usually high, your reputation, your money, often your freedom, you will want to get help to get you through the process.
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