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A Guide to Criminal Law: Stages of a Criminal Case

A criminal offense is when a person commits a behavior that the society views as offending and has affected the sensibility of the society as a whole. It includes murder, rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, arson, and more.

To prosecute a criminal offender, you need a reliable attorney like Tad Nelson & Associates to take the case to the court. There are several stages in a criminal prosecution. Usually, the case ends when the defendant accepts the plea bargain. He either pleads guilty before a trial, gets sentenced, or gets dismissed. To learn more about the whole process, here’s the different stages of a criminal case:

One: Arrest

Any criminal prosecution starts with an arrest. Once you report an incident to a police officer, they can get a warrant to arrest the person. However, you need to provide proof that the person has committed the crime. If you don’t have that yet, you need to at least convince the officer that the crime has, indeed, taken place.

Two: Bail

Bail refers to the payment the defendant gives to the court to allow him to get out of custody. However, it does not mean that his case is dissolved. He’s still required to appear for all court dates. Usually, defendants pay 10% of the bail amount and set a collateral for the rest. He can also pay the bail in full. If he attends the court dates, the money is returned. If not, he will lose the entire bail.

Three: Arraignment

Arraignment is when the accused makes his first court appearance. It is when the judge reads him the charges filed against him. He can plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no contest” to your charges. Then, the judge decides about the bail issue and sets a tentative date for future court proceedings.

Four: Preliminary Hearing

The purpose of preliminary hearings is simple. The judge decides whether your charges against the defendant are strong enough to hold a trial. If you don’t have enough evidence, your case may be rejected. Your attorney can call witnesses and present evidence to support your argument that a trial is essential.

Five: Pre-trial Conference

The judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney meet to discuss a   plea bargain. This is basically a negotiation between the two sides. The prosecutor has control over which charges the defendant may face, but the judge decides the sentence. The defense attorney will try to convince both that the defendant is a good citizen who has made a mistake. He needs to mitigate the charges or the sentence.

Six: Jury Trial

At a trial, the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. The prosecution presents the proof of guilt while the defendant will try to negate those proofs. The defense can also present their case and call their own witnesses and give evidence. The prosecution and defense can cross-examine each other’s witnesses. After the examination and cross-examination, the jury will make a verdict. If the verdict is unanimous, the judge will declare a mistrial. The case will be momentarily dismissed. Then, there will be a new jury. This goes on until there’s a decision made.

Seven: Sentencing

If the jury decides that the defendant is guilty, the court will give him the sentence decided in the pre-trial conference. The sentence usually depends on the crime’s severity, the defendant’s criminal history, degree of remorse, and personal circumstances.

Eight: Appeal

Sometimes, your case don’t end once the sentence has been made. The defendant can still ask that the higher court review his case. When such court finds that there’s a mistake in the case, there can be a retrial.


A criminal prosecution can last for a long time. Thus, you need to have a strong support system and a reliable attorney if you want to survive it.

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