The start of any criminal case can provide uncertainty to those dealing with an arrest, possible arrest, or criminal charge. Typically, a criminal case begins with an investigation. While some crimes lead to an immediate arrest, such as a DUI, other crimes require a thorough investigation on the part of law enforcement before action is taken.
During the pre-arrest investigation process, hiring a lawyer on retainer can allow you to get ahead of your potential criminal arrest or charge and begin building a strong criminal defense. After the investigative process has concluded, it typically leads to a criminal charge or arrest. An arraignment is then scheduled to formally charge you. At an arraignment, you are typically expected to enter a plea.
More often than not, you and your attorney will enter a plea of “not guilty” as that is the way to begin the discovery process, which is the disclosure by the prosecution of all of the evidence collected in your case. Within 15 days of your arraignment, the prosecutor will have to disclose all the evidence that has been collected during the investigation, whether inculpatory or exculpatory. Inculpatory evidence is evidence that indicates you may be guilty of the alleged crime, while exculpatory evidence demonstrates that you are innocent and is often referred to as “Brady material”. You and your attorney will have to reciprocate by disclosing any evidence and witnesses you would like to use at trial.
What Should I Expect from My Criminal Case?
One of the most important parts of a criminal case is the discovery process. During this process, both the prosecution and criminal defense attorney build their respective cases, each utilizing evidence that they uncover, fielding key witnesses, and leveraging criminal law in their favor.
There are several types of witnesses that can assist a criminal defense lawyer. A lay or civilian witness has direct knowledge or observed the alleged criminal incident firsthand. Expert witnesses provide insight on specific matters relating to your case that are not generally known to a typical juror, such as the science of DNA analytics. Character witnesses help paint the picture of who you are as a person.
Typically following the discovery process, plea bargaining can begin. However, a criminal defense attorney is free to strike a deal prior to receiving discovery, understanding that they may not have all of the information, but rather, a good faith basis that the State will or will not be able to prove the case. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, the prosecution may offer reduced penalties in exchange for not making the government have to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Discovery depositions, preliminary hearings and pre-trial motions that can also take place during this time may also impact the plea negotiations.
What Happens After My Criminal Case is Over?
If a plea bargain is not reached, the next step is typically to set the case for a trial. A criminal defense lawyer can defend you using all available evidence and criminal law. If you are found guilty of the charges, a criminal defense lawyer can still file post-trial motions such as a motion for new a trial, as well as present mitigating evidence at sentencing to encourage the judge to give you reduced penalties.
You are also entitled to an appeal after a guilty verdict, although you may need to retain a distinct criminal appellate attorney. If you are found not guilty, then the case is over, and generally the prosecution is barred by double jeopardy from bringing these particular charges against you ever again.
Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Individuals who are Designated as First-Time Offenders?
The criminal justice system can be unrelenting, especially if it is your first time being accused of a crime. If you are unsure about what your criminal case may entail, seeking out the services of a dedicated criminal defense lawyer in Fort Myers may be the key to winning your case. Call the Sherman Defense Law Firm, P.A. at (239) 284-5708 and get the representation you need today.