The Arrest Process Explained
The Criminal Investigation
Typically, a criminal investigation begins when someone notifies the police or law enforcement officers of an alleged crime. Investigators may question witnesses or they may interview the person accused of committing a crime. At this point, since the suspect has not been arrested, the police do not have to read that person their rights. However, it is imperative that you understand one thing: what you say may be used against you later in court if you freely share information with the police. If you are contacted or questioned by the police, the first thing you need to do is ask whether you are a suspect, whether you are free to go, or whether you must answer their questions. You can also ask for a lawyer. Don’t let the police convince you that you don’t need a lawyer. The police officers questioning you are not on your side. If an investigator gathers the kind of information they believe they need to support an arrest warrant, you could find yourself arrested before you know what happened.
After your arrest, an arraignment is held in a courtroom and the charges against you are formally read. After reading the charges against you, the court will also set your bond, indicating how much money you have to pay in order to get out of jail while awaiting trial. Typically, when setting bail, the court will consider the charges against you, your criminal record, recommendations from the prosecutor, and your risk for flight. If you appear in court with your attorney, you stand a better chance of being released on your own recognizance or, at the very least, of having a minimum/lower bond set.
Our attorneys can ensure that you understand the arraignment process while serving as an aggressive advocate on your behalf.
A preliminary hearing is used to answer two questions: (1) Was a crime committed? and (2) Is it more likely than not that the person arrested for the crime actually committed it? The prosecution need only establish answers to these two questions. According to the procedural rules that govern preliminary hearings, the District Judge presiding over the preliminary hearing must believe the witnesses presented by the prosecution. Consequently, it is not in the best interests of the accused to provide witnesses of their own. In fact, given the nature of the preliminary hearing, it’s often better not to reveal one’s defense strategy until it can have the greatest effect – for instance, at trial in front of a jury. After the judge hears testimony and argument from both sides, the charges against you will be dismissed, held over for court, or some combination of both of these outcomes if you face multiple charges.
The importance of conducting a preliminary hearing is often undervalued by many criminal defense attorneys. The accused may not be aware that an opportunity was lost until a second opinion is sought out. We welcome those who are not happy with their current attorneys. At the Law Offices of James Crosby, our free consultations provide you with a second opinion that comes with no strings attached. We are confident that you will either feel more at ease with your current situation or you will want to retain us to protect your rights and lead you through the rest of the legal process.
The formal arraignment is the calendar control date when the prosecutor notifies the accused of the official charges against them. The criminal information sent to the accused will list the charges against which they must defend themselves. The formal arraignment also begins the timeline for deadlines that must be met. Failure to file notices can result in a lost opportunity to file pretrial motions. Additionally, when we accompany you to the formal arraignment, we enter our appearance so the court and prosecutor will be able to notify our office of any postponements or procedural changes affecting your case. By entering our appearance, prosecutors will also know whom to contact if negotiations or an opportunity for a plea bargain arises later on. The police will also know who to send any lab reports to concerning your case.
A pre-trial conference provides the defense or the prosecution in a criminal case with an opportunity to present and argue pretrial motions filed after your formal arraignment. This is especially important if there are any issues surrounding the discovery process and sharing of information that prosecutors are required to provide for your defense. At the pre-trial conference, our attorneys can bring these issues to light and argue our points before a judge. Perhaps most importantly, the pre-trial conference also provides the last opportunity to negotiate a plea agreement prior to your case going to trial.
A trial is a presentation of each party’s case in front of a jury, a judge, or a combination of both – depending upon the facts of each case. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is required prior to the finding of guilt. Reasonable doubt is doubt which causes a reasonably prudent person to hesitate when making one of life’s important decisions. The accused enjoys the presumption of innocence throughout the trial.
At trial, the accused should also enjoy the benefit of a cohesive defense that was prepared throughout the legal process, from the investigatory stage of the proceedings to the trial stage. Further, it is at trial that the prosecution will get its first and last look at the theme and theory of the defense’s case. Effective defenses begin at the moment a person becomes a suspect and can include an alibi, mistaken identity, entrapment, insanity defense, a burden of proof defense or other available defenses. There is simply no substitute for a well-prepared attorney.
Sentencing only happens if the prosecution was able to meet its burden of proof and a conviction was obtained. Sentencing also happens after a guilty plea, negotiated or otherwise, is formally entered on the record. At that time, a person can be sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement, if one was negotiated, or a pre-sentence investigation can be requested or ordered by the judge.
Throughout our representation of you, you will be constantly reminded of the potential penalty for the offenses you’ve been charged with. We do this not to scare you but to make sure you understand the full effect of your decisions. Being aware of your legal options and the risks associated with those options is one of the most important services we, as experienced attorneys, can provide a client.
Contact Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys
The criminal process can be confusing and stressful. To understand what your rights are and how we can help you protect your interests, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of James Crosby today. We offer a free initial consultation with no obligation. Call us now at 412-391-0123.