Understanding Criminal Investigation & Prosecution Processes
If you have been accused of a serious crime, then you need all the advantages you can get to protect yourself from the possible criminal penalties on the horizon. Even low-level misdemeanor convictions can carry harsh consequences that drain the finances, take the freedom, and tarnish the reputation of the defendant. A good starting point for building your defense and preparing yourself for the road ahead is understanding how typical criminal investigations and prosecutions develop.
At Perez & Perez Law, our father-daughter duo of Seattle criminal defense attorneys — Attorney Robert Perez and Attorney Sarah Perez — believe in empowering our clients and potential-clients with knowledge and information. For this reason, we have compiled a helpful breakdown of what you can expect during a criminal investigation and prosecution. If you want the representation of our law firm, which is led by a ’77 Harvard Law School graduate, then do not hesitate to contact us at your first opportunity.
Criminal Investigation & Prosecution Processes
- Prearrest investigation: When law enforcement becomes aware of criminal activities but does not have grounds to make an immediate arrest, a prearrest investigation begins. The purpose of the investigation is finding due cause to make an arrest.
- Arrest: Police officers can arrest people if they have probable cause after responding to a report of criminal activity, or after a court approves an arrest warrant. Someone placed under arrest is not yet charged with any crimes – it is important to keep this in mind if you are arrested or detained by law enforcement.
- First appearance: An arrested individual is brought to court to hear the charges to be filed against them. First appearances happen as soon as possible, which usually means only a few hours after an arrest. If no grounds to file charges are determined, the first appearance could end with the suspect being released.
- Grand jury: Someone charged with a felony or federal crime may have their prosecution begin with a grand jury, which is a special selection of private citizens who ultimately decide if the case should be dismissed or moved forward.
- Preliminary hearing: If you are charged with a felony but did not have a grand jury, then your case should have a preliminary hearing. Like a grand jury, there is a chance for your case to be dismissed, or for the charges to be indicted, based on current evidence and the arguments brought forth by both counsels.
- Arraignment: The charges are made official and filed. The defendant is given the chance to enter a plea, such as guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
- Discovery and motions: A chance for both counsels to uncover or share evidence related to the alleged crime. Motions can be filed to request the court to complete an action, such as summoning a key witness.
- Plea bargain: In some cases, the defendant chooses to plead guilty and save everyone time in exchange for a lenient sentencing or charge reduction. Do not try to form a plea bargain on your own. Always consult with a Seattle criminal defense lawyer to discuss if a plea bargain would be right for your case.
- Trial: If the case has not been dismissed and the defendant has not pled guilty, then the case goes to trial. Within a typical trial, there will be voir dire process that questions and selects jurors. There will next be opening statements made during a guilt phase, which is followed by the presentation of evidence. Trials end with jury deliberations or a judge’s ruling, which names the defendant guilty or not guilty. If guilty, sentencing will be issued, such as jail time, fines, restitution fees, etc.
- Appeal: When there is reason to believe the court erred in judgement, you can file an appeal, which asks a higher court to review the decision. Appeals can overturn, reverse, or challenge judgements. The prosecution cannot appeal.
- Probation and parole: Defendants found guilty of a crime but not sentenced to jail time will be placed on probation. If they are arrested for another crime, or do not complete other sentencing requirements, they will be brought to jail. Parole is effectively probation that is granted after the convicted defendant has already served some time in jail or prison.
Remember: Going through criminal investigation and prosecution processes alone dramatically increases the chances of the prosecution succeeding. Get reliable, experienced counsel with the “dream team” of Seattle criminal defense lawyers by contacting Perez & Perez Law today.