How Does the Criminal Process Work?


The criminal process initiates with an arrest, contingent on constitutional grounds of probable cause. This means law enforcement must have a solid basis to believe a crime has occurred and that the suspect in custody is responsible. At this juncture, the presence of a defense attorney is crucial to challenge potential charges. The prosecuting agency evaluates police reports to determine whether to proceed with charges. Early legal intervention can significantly impact this decision.


The arraignment marks the defendant’s first appearance in court, a pivotal moment in the criminal process. During this proceeding, the judge formally informs the defendant of their constitutional rights, ensuring they understand the legal protections available to them. These rights include the right to legal representation, the right to remain silent, and the right to a fair and speedy trial.

Simultaneously, the judge presents the charges filed against the defendant. This is a crucial moment, as it sets the stage for the legal battle ahead. The defendant is then asked to enter a plea in response to these charges. The options are:

  1. Guilty: Admitting to the charges and accepting responsibility.
  2. No Contest (Nolo Contendere): Not disputing the charges, but also not admitting guilt. This plea is similar to a guilty plea in its legal effect.
  3. Not Guilty: Denying the charges and setting the stage for a trial.

The decision on which plea to enter is one of the most significant in the criminal justice process. It’s essential to have a seasoned criminal defense attorney to guide this decision. An experienced lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case, the evidence against the defendant, and the potential consequences of each plea option.

Entering a plea without legal advice can lead to unintended and often severe consequences. A guilty or no contest plea, for instance, can result in immediate sentencing without the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s case. On the other hand, a not guilty plea leads to the preparation for trial, where your attorney can contest the charges, present evidence, and argue on your behalf.

The arraignment is more than a formality; it’s a strategic point in your defense. The right legal counsel at this stage can not only advise you on the best course of action but also begin laying the groundwork for your defense strategy, should your case proceed to trial

Preliminary Hearing

In felony cases, the preliminary hearing is crucial. The prosecution shows evidence and calls witnesses to argue the defendant’s alleged involvement in the crime. Strong legal defense is vital here. A defense attorney cross-examines witnesses and scrutinizes evidence, aiming to reveal weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument.

While defendants have the right to present evidence, careful strategy is key. Often, holding back evidence at this stage can be advantageous, depending on the overall defense plan. The outcome of this hearing decides if the case goes to trial, leading to a second arraignment for the defendant.

This hearing is more than just a formality; it’s a significant opportunity for the defense to challenge the prosecution’s case early on.

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Trial Phase

Prosecution’s Burden of Proof: The prosecution must establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This high standard is central to ensuring fairness in the trial.

  • Evaluation of Evidence: Both the judge and jury play critical roles in scrutinizing the evidence presented. Their objective assessment determines the outcome of the trial.
  • Defense Strategy: The defense attorney counters the prosecution’s case, challenging evidence and presenting arguments to create doubt about the defendant’s guilt.
  • Verdict Decision: Based on the evidence and arguments, the judge or jury delivers a verdict of either guilty or not guilty, deciding the defendant’s fate.
  • Importance of Experienced Legal Representation: A skilled defense attorney can significantly influence the trial’s direction, aiming to secure the best possible outcome for the defendant.

       Sentencing Phase

  • Post-Verdict Proceedings: Following a guilty verdict, the focus shifts to the sentencing hearing, where the consequences of the verdict are determined.
  • Attorney’s Advocacy Role: A skilled defense attorney plays a crucial role in this phase, advocating for the most lenient sentence possible for their client.
  • Consideration of Mitigating Factors: The defense presents mitigating factors, such as the defendant’s background, circumstances of the offense, and any remorse shown, to argue for reduced sentencing.
  • Sentencing Decision: The judge considers the arguments from both sides, the nature of the crime, and statutory guidelines before determining the appropriate sentence.

Expert Criminal Defense in Los Angeles

At the Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, we provide experienced and dedicated legal representation throughout the criminal process. If you are facing criminal charges Reach out to us at (310) 448-1529 or connect with us online for a consultation. We prioritize prompt and clear communication, offer flexible scheduling options, including weekends, and are available for jail visits to discuss your case. Our office is strategically located in the Westside Towers in Los Angeles, easily accessible from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Westwood, and close to the Expo/Bundy Station.






    11845 W Olympic Blvd #520, Los Angeles, CA 90064

    Monday—Friday 8:30AM–5:00PM

    (310) 448-1529