What to Expect If You’ve Been Charged with a Crime

What to Expect If You've Been Charged with a Crime

Being charged with a crime is definitely one of the worst things that can happen in your life. Legal proceedings are complex, emotionally and physically draining, they bear high-stakes consequences, severe financial hardships, and social disgrace.

All of this can ruin your life almost completely, and harm all the relationships, friendships, and other important connections you have. In the text below, we will go over some of the most important steps to take if you ever face criminal charges, and what to expect from the process. 

Types of crimes

In most states, there is a distinction between three major types of crimes, including infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions include minor crimes like traffic or municipal code breaches, and the punishment for them is not so severe and does not carry prison time.

Misdemeanors include breaches like theft, vandalism, or minor assault, and they are seen as more severe penalties. Punishments include monetary fines, mandatory community work, or even a year in prison. Finally, felonies include the most heinous crimes, like murder, rape, armed robbery, and drug or human trafficking.

These are the most serious kinds of criminal violations, and there are serious legal ramifications for them, including lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, and other severe penalties. Knowing the differences between all of these types of crimes will help you know the possible consequences and how to deal with them. 

The role of intent

Mens rea, or the defendant’s state of mind in the moment of committing the crime, plays an important role in the whole process.

Also, there is the concept of the commission of the crime or actus reus, and together with mens rea, they make important elements that the prosecution uses to establish the case against the defendant.

Some crimes require an intentional and premeditated plan to be considered crimes, while others can be seen simply as carelessness. 

The arrest process

The arrest process starts when the police authorities arrest the person for whom they believe they committed some serious crime. The police will recite the Miranda Rights, which is better known as the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present, and they will inform the defendant about the allegations.

Once they arrive at the police station, the authorities will photograph the person, and take his or her fingerprints and their personal records. Some may be taken into custody to wait for their first court appearance or the bail hearing.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, this is the right moment to have an attorney present, like a criminal defense lawyer in St. Louis, who will protect your rights and advise you on what to say and how to proceed with the accusations. The lawyer will represent you in court and fight to prove that the allegations are not true based on strong evidence and witness testimonies.

If you know your rights and how to use them, it can have a great impact on the whole arrest process. This is where the authorities initiate the official criminal justice process and lay the groundwork for further legal procedures and defense plans.  

Preparing for trial

This is the part when both the prosecution and defense prepare by collecting evidence. First of all, they are looking for witnesses, as their testimonies are necessary to give first-hand accounts of what really happened.

Also, they gather physical evidence, like papers or forensic findings, and they arrange expert testimony to investigate intricate evidence. At this point, the lawyer comes up with strong arguments, researches the plaintiff’s side of the story, and prepares for cross-examination.

Sometimes, the court may decide to dismiss the charges even before the trial begins, and the defendant may also think about entering a plea bargain, where they will agree to a reduced charge or sentence in return for pleading guilty to avoid trial and its uncertainty. 

The trial process

The trial process’s main goal is to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant with strong evidence and an organized sequence of events. First of all, the lawyers of both sides will question the members of the jury to determine whether they are unbiased and fair.

Then, the trial will begin when both the defense and prosecution deliver their opening statements, where they will lay out their theories and evidence about what actually happened. The prosecution then calls witnesses to provide evidence, and the defense has the right to cross-examine them.

Then, the defense will bring in their witnesses and evidence, and again, the prosecution steps in to question them. Finally, there are the closing statements, where attorneys try to gain the jury’s trust. The jury meets in secret to decide whether or not the defendant is guilty, and then they represent their decision to the court. 

Sentencing

When the jury expresses their decision about whether or not the defendant is guilty, the next step is sentence. The judge will examine the offender’s history, crime, and all circumstances that led to the case and accusation.

Also, the prosecution or defense can present some additional evidence to influence the judge’s decision. Sometimes, victims or their families can also give their statements about how and to what extent the crime changed and harmed their lives.

Sentences can range from jail time, probation, community work, and monetary fines. The court will consider many aspects, including the case’s gravity, whether or not the defendant has a criminal record, and other obligatory standards. The trial closes after the judge announces the sentence, and this sentence can sometimes be changed or appealed later on. 

Post-conviction

As we said, sometimes the sentence can be changed or appealed, and that is when the defendant can ask a higher court to revise their trial and look for mistakes. The higher court will decide to open a new trial or even reverse the verdict. Defendants can also request expungement, which would seal or erase their criminal record and give them better chances to continue their lives normally.

Being charged with a crime is not simple, and the emotional harm the whole process leaves is unprecedented. But following the right steps and, most importantly, having a lawyer by your side will help you handle these trying times.

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