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What Am I Up Against? Logistics of Criminal Cases
Date: Jan 18
Every criminal case is different, with different jurisdictions and laws, a different set of facts, different time frames, and different judges or juries. Since no two cases are the same, there are no guarantees even for how a case will progress, much less for how it will turn out. But there are some stages that are common to most cases, with turning points in each.
First, there is an investigation, which a defendant might or might not be aware of prior to their contact with the court. If the prosecuting authority decides they have enough evidence against a defendant, they'll proceed to the next stage.
Defendants learn they are being investigated through one of several means. They could be questioned, arrested, served a warrant for their arrest, or they could receive a summons. To be clear, a defendant would be wise to seek an attorney no later than the point when they even think they may be under investigation. Some of a person's most basic rights at stake in criminal proceedings, and there are no true "do overs."
Next, defendants are processed, either as part of the arrest procedures or at a later date if a person receives a summons. This will involve collecting identifying evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA samples.
If arrested, defendants could be held until the first appearance. Regarding state charges, at the first appearance the judge will decide an amount to set a bond if one hasn't been set already. Things considered is the name of the crime charged, any criminal history, risk of flight and safety risk to the community. There's no set time frame for how long a defendant could have until their first appearance. It could be days, weeks, months, or even longer. Of course, if a defendant can meet the criteria established by the judge for the bond, then the defendant can resume a normal life (with some limitations) during the course of the case. While out on bond, a defendant will still need to regularly appear before the court for all hearings.
There could also be various pretrial hearings. These could include a preliminary hearing
for felony cases, evidentiary hearings, bond modification hearings, and various motion-based hearings such as hearings on motions to suppress or dismiss.
After these hearings, a judge will decide how the case should progress. In a best-case scenario, a judge would decide to dismiss the case and/or suppress evidence. If that doesn't happen, the case could be set for later status hearing or be scheduled for trial. A case could go one of four ways. A defendant could be accepted on diversion; a defendant could win a motion to dismiss or suppress and that might lead to a case being dismissed; a defendant could plead guilty, no contest, or enter a "no-deal" plea; or a defendant could chose to go on to trial before a jury or a judge.
This is, of course, a highly simplified overview of how criminal cases proceed. If you are facing the intimidating challenge of defending yourself and your rights, you deserve a qualified Kansas criminal defense attorney to serve as your advocate, guide, and champion throughout the process. With 17 years experience in criminal defense, John Kerns of Mack & Associates is just such an attorney. Call us today!
By John Kerns, JD
Hillary Stirling, research assistant