When one gets arrested, for the first time, they really have no idea what is in store for them. The purpose of this post is to outline the general steps that happen once one has been arrested for a crime.Lets say that you are the suspect for the purposes of this scenario and that you have been alleged to have committed a crime. (picture of gavel taken by KeithBurtis)
First off, one has to be arrested. The arrest is only valid when a police officer has probable cause to believe that you have committed the crime. After being arrested you are taken down to the police station to be booked. Booking is the process where they collect information on you and put it into their system. This information includes your fingerprints, a photograph, age, height, etc. Once you are booked then the D.A., or more likely the assistant D.A., decides whether there is enough evidence to file the charges of the crime against you that you allegedly committed. For example, burglary consists of the unlawful, forceful, entry into ones house to take property. If you were found in someones house when the police showed up, the D.A.’s office would consider that strong evidence to be used against you to fulfill that element of the crime.
After the complaint has been filed, you will go through what is normally called a “first appearance“. This is where you are brought before a judge or some other court official where you are informed of the charges against you and that you have a right to counsel. (You should already have counsel by now. It is best to receive it as soon as you arrive at the station. Say nothing until your lawyer has arrived.) Next we have “preliminary hearings” brought before a judge where there are sometimes live witnesses used in order for the judge to determine if there is enough evidence to establish probable cause that you committed the crime. After this the prosecutor prepares “information”, reciting the charges. (Called indictment in some states that use a grand jury system).
Next you will be brought before the court and arraigned. This is where you will be asked to plead innocent or guilty. Then your attorney will begin the pre-trial motions, which may consist of various issues. These issues are numerous and can be somewhat complicated/dull to describe. Needless to say it is more for your lawyer to worry about, and not you. Finally comes the actual trial, if it makes it this far. If your charge is a felony, burglary is, then you are given the right to have a trial by jury. When all the theatrics of the trial are done, the sentencing comes. This is where you are determined to be either innocent or guilty by the judge or the jury after hearing all the merits of the case. Depending on the ruling, you are entitled to an appeal. Appeals can be fully talked about more in another post. In a nut shell, appeals involve errors in the trial, such as allowing evidence obtained against you unconstitutionally in the trial, and you requesting that evidence should never have been considered. Appeals are another issue that is more for your lawyer to worry about and not you.
That is the short, broad, and hopefully straightforward outline of a criminal proceeding from beginning to end. I hope it has given you an simple insight into what can appear to be a scary and complicated process from the outside.