The criminal justice system is defined by a set of rules that are formulated to deter wrong doing and keep the public safe. Violations of these rules, or laws, results in arrest, incarceration, fines, and more. The criminal justice system is essentially an adversarial system that is tricky to navigate. Anyone accused of a crime should seek the expertise of a legal professional, like the professionals at Scott and Medling.
Truth and Consequences
The truth of the American justice system is that it is complex. Laws and the consequences of violations are found in documented penal codes. These can be complicated documents.
Crimes that are less serious are called misdemeanors, and carry smaller penalties. Still, even the consequences of a misdemeanor can land defendants in county jail. More serious crimes have more dire consequences. Called felonies, these offenses are routinely punishable by extended prison stays.
Interpretations of the Law
Criminal law, like any other, is interpreted and shaped by the study of previous court opinions about the same laws or issues. These previous opinions, or rulings, set a precedent for the handling of similar cases to come.
The interpretation of the law is initially predicated on the investigation of the crime. Police offers who investigate are given this responsibility. The defense attorney may challenge the prosecution based on the ways in which the investigation was handled. Violations of procedure by the police can negate the case.
The Course of Court
Criminal prosecution is a difficult process for defendants. The complexities of the court system can lead to conviction through self-incriminating statements. It is important that defendants not waive their rights or cause themselves harm by answering questions that incriminate them.
Of course, after an arrest is made police officers who question a suspect must inform him or her of the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. This is called the Miranda Rights. In short, without a lawyer in the defendant’s corner, incriminating statements can be made that will be used against the defendant in court. You should avoid speaking with authorities without the assistance of a lawyer.
Regardless of whether or not the defendant is accused of misdemeanors or felonies, court procedures are the same. For example, in both cases, the arraignment will be in open court.The judge explains the charges, and asks for a plea of guilty or not guilty. If a guilty please is made, negotiation of sentencing terms can commence. However, pleading guilty may also result in the defendant relinquishing some of his or her rights.
The discovery period is the stage in a criminal case when a defendant is allowed access to all the evidence gathered by law enforcement. Obtaining these materials is vitally important. For example, in DUI cases, lab tests and video footage can determine the outcome of the case.
Going to Trial
It’s important to note that if the state does not offer a plea bargain the defendant is willing to accept, the case moves forward after the discovery period. The next step is a trail. During a trial, witnesses can be questioned, and lawyers present their arguments about the case to a jury. The outcome of the trial will determine the outcome of the defendant’s case. With jail time or fines hanging over a defendant, having an attorney well-versed in the trial process is key to mounting a successful defense.