How Does the Criminal Process Work?
The criminal process begins with the arrest. For the arrest to be constitutional, the arresting agency must have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the person arrested committed the crime. After the arrest, the prosecuting agency will review the police reports and decide whether or not to file charges. It is important to have an attorney at your side during this early stage of the case to advocate against the filing of charges.
The arraignment is the defendant’s first appearance in court. The judge will inform the defendant of his constitutional rights and the charges filed. The defendant will then enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. No one should ever enter a plea before speaking to a lawyer; doing so may have devastating consequences on the outcome of the case.
This hearing is only required when felony charges are filed. There is no preliminary hearing in misdemeanor cases. This hearing is like a “mini-trial” where the prosecutor presents witnesses & evidence to try to prove that the defendant committed the crime(s). Having a lawyer at this stage is vital because this is the first opportunity to question the witnesses, to refute the evidence presented, and to weaken the prosecution’s theory of the case. The defendant has a right to present witnesses and evidence but doing so is not always in his best interest this early in the case. Thus, defendants should consult with a lawyer before making any decisions. Once all the evidence has been presented, the judge will determine if there is enough evidence for the defendant to be held to answer and stand trial. If the defendant is held to answer he will be arraigned a second time. If no plea deal is reached and the defendant pleads “not guilty,” the case proceeds to trial.
At the trial, the prosecution has the burden to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Based upon the evidence presented, a jury or a judge determines whether the defendant is guilty or not.
If found guilty the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing. It is important to have a qualified attorney advocating for the lowest sentence possible.
At the Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, we provide clients with passionate and experienced representation. If you have been charged with a crime and would like to schedule an initial consultation with a lawyer at our firm, contact us by phone at (310) 448-1529 or contact us online. We promptly return phone calls and emails. Our office is conveniently located in the Westside Towers in West Los Angeles, within minutes of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood. We have flexible and weekend office hours, and we will visit you in jail to discuss your case.