What Happens When You’re Charged With a Crime?


police handcuffs

Being charged with a crime is a defining moment in your life. How you respond could dictate how the next several “dominos” fall. That’s why it’s important to have a strong understanding of how the process works.

The prosecutor’s job is to get you convicted

First, it’s important to keep in mind that the prosecution’s job is to get you convicted. Never underestimate how aggressively the prosecution will go after you to get a conviction. They will bring up everything possible, including circumstantial evidence.

Direct evidence isn’t always needed for a conviction

You might be surprised to learn that many people are convicted of violent crimes, including murder, based on circumstantial evidence alone. Circumstantial evidence relies on inference to draw a conclusion, and frequently infers guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s all that’s required for a conviction.

Nashville Criminal Defense Attorneys explain how it works: “To convict someone, criminal cases require the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In simple terms, beyond a reasonable doubt implies that based on available evidence, a person of reasonable intelligence would have to draw the conclusion that you committed the crime in question.”

Be prepared for the prosecution to present circumstantial evidence against you, and don’t be surprised if it sways the jury toward a conviction.

Now that you know more about what the prosecution is about, let’s dive into the different stages of being charged with a crime.

1. Most criminal charges begin with an arrest

With the exception of some misdemeanors, criminal charges begin with an arrest. During an arrest, the officer is supposed to read you your rights, which includes reminding you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

2. Your case will be approved or denied by the District Attorney

Your case details will be written up and sent to the District Attorney (D.A.) to get approval to move forward with the charges. If they accept the charges, they can also modify and enhance them to be more serious if they feel it’s appropriate.

Once your case is approved by the D.A., the prosecutor will review your case and evaluate the evidence to see if it’s worth pursuing.

3. You might get a preliminary hearing

Depending on your situation, you might be given a preliminary hearing where your lawyer can argue there isn’t enough evidence for you to stand trial. If there is no probable cause, your case might get dropped at this point in time.
It’s also possible that your attorney will negotiate a plea bargain for you prior to your preliminary hearing. It all depends on the circumstances specific to your case.

4. The prosecutor will file an indictment

If the probable cause in your case is deemed sufficient to proceed, the prosecutor will file an indictment against you, which means you’ll be required to appear in court to face formal charges during an arraignment.

5. You’ll appear at your arraignment

During your arraignment, you might be given the chance to accept a plea bargain to reduce your charges and/or your sentence. If you plead guilty on your own or take a deal, your case won’t go to trial.

Most criminal cases don’t end up going to trial, and as such, most criminal convictions are the result of a plea bargain. Trials are expensive and time-consuming, and attorneys will do whatever they can to avoid a trial. However, you still have the right to a jury trial and aren’t obligated to accept a deal.

6. You’ll face a jury

If you don’t take a plea deal, your case will be tried before a jury. During a jury trial, the judge will make decisions regarding questions of law while the jury will make decisions regarding questions of fact. In other words, the judge keeps the proceedings in line with the law and the jury determines guilt or innocence.

7. If convicted, there will be consequences

If you’re convicted, you’ll face consequences, which can include jail time and fines. The sentence you get handed will be completely dependent on your situation, your attorney’s ability to negotiate, and what the prosecution is asking for.

Don’t face criminal charges alone – get an attorney

Facing criminal charges can be confusing and scary, and that’s why it’s crucial to have a skilled criminal defense attorney. Don’t try to face your charges alone. If you haven’t already, contact an attorney immediately to get the best possible outcome.


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