Understanding the Felony Criminal Process
The criminal process is highly confusing – especially for someone who has been recently arrested and/or charged with a crime. If you are facing felony charges, it can become even more complicated. There are numerous stages to a felony defense case and, during each stage, there are opportunities for your defense attorney (as well as the prosecution) to make their case. That is why it is important that you understand the process fully – so that you can understand the risks and opportunities available to you during your case.
Note that a felony case can take some time to resolve – sometimes even years. Even those cases that are prosecuted instantly can drag on for over a year; regardless of your Sixth Amendment rights.
The Criminal Process
- Arraignment – This is the first court appearance you will make. Here, there are a few things that will occur, including your being advised of your rights, your counsel appointed (or named if you already have an attorney), the charges being read to you, and then an invitation to enter a plea if you so wish to do so. Also, bail will be determined and the date for your next court appearance will be established.
- Bail Review – This is the second portion of your bail review. You can enter into a bail review a few days post-arraignment. A bail amount will either be assigned, or you may be released on your Own Recognizance (OR).
- Preliminary Hearing – Also referred to as the prelim setting or disposition conference. This is a preliminary hearing’s hearing, and it is an opportunity to resolve the case via plea bargain. Your attorney will also be able to get information from law enforcement and the prosecutor for discovery.
- Preliminary Examination – Also known as a pre-trial hearing. This is relatively informal and is when a judge hears the evidence, without a jury, from the prosecution to determine if there is a strong enough suspicion that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is the probable suspect of that crime. The evidentiary standard is not as high during this hearing and it is relatively easy to meet.
- Motion Hearings – During this stage, the court will hear from both sides on any challenges of evidence, witnesses, etc.
- Trial – This is when your case and the prosecution’s case is presented to a judge or jury. You will have 12 jurors and typically two alternates (in case a juror must be replaced). There are several steps within the trial, including the voir dire (questioning and selection of jurors); opening statements; presenting evidence; closing arguments; verdict; and sentencing.
Contact an Attorney Before Your Arraignment
There are numerous stages and each stage provides a good defense attorney with an opportunity to decrease the charges, or even have the case dismissed. But, you need to hire an attorney as early as possible to give him or her every opportunity to work on your behalf. If you have been arrested or you are being questioned regarding a crime, contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today. We offer no-obligation consultations, so schedule yours now at 505-375-4661, or fill out our online contact form with your legal questions.