For many people, this is the first time that they have been through the system. Law is a foreign process to outsiders, which is why we have a right to have an attorneys represent us in these proceedings. However, every criminal case is different, so the length of time that each case takes depends on the evidence available, the complexity of the legal issues presented, and even the prosecutor’s workload. But generally, criminal trials are disposed of either during the pretrial process or after a jury trial.
What is an arraignment?
For most cases, the first appearance in a criminal proceeding is the arraignment. This stage is where defendants are “apprised of their rights in a criminal case and of the charges against them for the first time.” Judges will often make a finding of probable cause and set bail and other release conditions. As many judges impose alcohol and drug use restrictions at this point in the case, it is important for you to let your attorney know if you work in an occupation where alcohol is served on the premises so that by going to work you are not violating the court’s order.
Following the arraignment, where the court sets the pretrial calendar, comes the pretrial hearings. These hearings are usually set out between four and six weeks apart depending on the court and how much time remains on your speedy trial. Each hearing is like a progress report to the judge. The sides will present where they are currently in their trial prep. Your attorney will be reviewing the evidence presented against you and working with the prosecutor to find the best way to resolve the case. If your attorney needs more time, they may ask you to waive your right to a speedy trial to allow them to have more time to work out a favorable disposition. While some clients are satisfied with the deal that their attorney manages to work out with the prosecution others will prefer to go to trial, as it is only your right to make such a determination.
If you do opt to go to trial, there will be a preliminary hearing before the trial to ensure that both of the parties are ready for trial. Usually within a week the court will hold the trial. However, even trials can get pushed back a few weeks depending on the court’s schedule and caseload. A trial starts with jury selection, moves into opening arguments, the prosecution calls its witnesses and makes its case, then the defense makes its case, closing arguments, and then the jury deliberates and makes its finding of guilty or not guilty.
These review hearings can be held between six months and a year after negotiating a judgment. Often with cases that involve Driving Under the Influence, the judge will impose certain penalties and conditions for the deal that your attorney has negotiated with the prosecution. Here, the court will make sure that you have followed through on things like attending your victims impact panel, drug and alcohol evaluation, or that you have paid the fine that the court has issued against you. If you have complied with all of the court requirements at this time, then hopefully you will not need to familiarize yourself with the process again.