The Beginning of the End
A Start to Legal Procedures and Trials

     Everything has to start somewhere, just like crime. The beginning is when a person commits a crime. The role of the police in our criminal justice system is to prevent, detect and investigate crime and to apprehend criminals. It may surprise most people to know that most crimes are not observed by the police. Some crimes are reported by others and some are not. However, with the way forensic science is getting better everyday, pretty soon no crime may ever go unpunished again.

For now though, the police investigate criminals, and build cases and find evidence against such criminals so they can turn it all over to the next step in the legal system, the prosecutor. It will be up to him or her whether the case is strong enough to build a trial case on. If the prosecutor decides that there is sufficient evidence to proceed, the he or she will initiate the formal steps of prosecution. What steps are taken will depend on the nature of the crime and how serious the crime is. If the offense is minor, like a petty offense, the prosecutor will file a complaint or information, or criminal charge and the defendant is taken promptly before a lower court. Once charges are filed, then the person charged becomes the defendant. The title of the case usually reads, "The State of…verses, then the name of the defendant." For minor crimes, the proceedings are usually quick, the defendant is advised of his or her rights, and asked to give a plea. If the defendant pleads "not guilty," a trial date will be set for enough time for the attorney's to prepare their cases. If the defendant is found guilty, then a fine, community service, or small prison sentence will be given.

     If the offense is more serious, then the division between misdemeanors and felonies, misdemeanors are offenses that carry penalties of up to one year in prison. Felonies are offenses that earn a more server punishment of more than one year in prison. If a person is charges with a felony crime, an indictment is the common method of charging the accused, and this requires taking the evidence before a Grand Jury, which decides whether there is sufficient evidence to take the accused to trial, if there is sufficient evidence, the Grand Jury draws up an indictment. Some states don't have Grand Juries, and other jurisdictions seldom use this method anymore. Usually it is common practice to ask the person charged with a felony to be asked to waive indictment and to agree to proceed by information. Only a few states still use a Grand Jury action. Once the information is filed and the arrest is made, the defendant is taken before the lower or preliminary judicial authority, where they are told their rights. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the state will provide one for him or her. However the charges are brought to the courts, the case is formally and publicly filed in the court system. After an information or indictment is filed, the defendant is taken before the criminal court for arraignment.

     After reviewing the evidence presented at the preliminary stage, the court may order some charges dismissed for insufficient evidence, or chares reduced to lesser offenses. From these earliest stages, defense counsel will negotiate with the prosecutor to get charges dropped or reduced, either on the basis of the strength of the case, or in return for entering a guilty plea. Defense counsel will file motions with the court, challenging the legality of the prosecution papers, sometimes challenging arrest or other police actions, or the propriety of detention. These are the steps that are taken when a person commits a crime and gets caught. It sets the wheels in motion to make the person who committed the crime, pay for his or her mistake.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.