Criminal Process in Indiana
While the criminal process in Indiana differs with the facts of each case, most criminal cases follow the same common progression which follows.
Arrest (317) 969-8000
The criminal process usually starts with an arrest. It does not matter if the officers who arrested you at the scene of an alleged crime or where serving a search warrant, there are very specific rules of procedure that control how an arrest takes place.
Unlike on TV and in the movies, it is highly unlikely that the police failed to advise you of your rights (Miranda rights), but it occasionally may occur. More importantly at this stage is how the police arrest you and how they collect the evidence to be used against you at trial (remember O.J. Simpson). The chances of your charges being dismissed are greatly increased if the police fail to follow a required procedure.
Criminal Arraignment/Initial Hearing
Generally you will come before a judge within 48 hours of your arrest in what is typically called your initial hearing. The judge will determine if the officer had probable cause to make your arrest. Furthermore, the judge will inform you of the charges you face and you may enter a plea, guilty or not-guilty, at that time.
While there is no requirement for you to have an attorney before this initial hearing, I recommend obtaining legal counsel if you can. If you cannot afford an attorney, it is typically during this initial hearing that you would be offered a court appointed lawyer. Unless you have had time to discuss the legal implications of pleading guilty with an attorney it is usually best for you to plead not guilty at this stage. You can always change it later once you have an attorney.
The topic of bail will also be discussed during your initial hearing. What is bail? Bail is an amount of money placed with the court to “ensure” you will return before the court for future court hearings and/or trial(s). To determine an appropriate amount of bail the judge will look at a number of factors including the severity of your charges and your criminal history. The judge will use these and other factors to determine if you are a flight risk, a danger to yourself, and/or the community (ie are you likely to commit new crimes while out on bail). It is important to note that a judge does NOT have to grant bail. The issue of bail may be addressed at a later time in a bail reduction hearing where your attorney may attempt to get the judge to reduce the initial amount of bail required.
Much like you have seen on TV the discovery process is where the prosecution is required to tell the accused what evidence it plans on using to convict the accused and the accused tells the prosecutor what evidence it plans on using to prove the accused innocence. Discovery includes witnesses, police reports, accident reports, phone records, and physical evidence.
Pre-Trial Motions are just that, they are motions to the court to rule on various things before the trial starts. Pre-Trial Motions may include motions to include or exclude evidence, or witnesses, to change the location of the trial, or even to change the date of the trial.
Most criminal defendants do not go to trial. Instead, the prosecutor offers a “plea agreement” which provides for a lesser sentence or even a reduced charge in exchange for pleading guilty to the charges. Many times this plea agreement (plea bargain) may be the best option for both the accused and the prosecutor. You should discuss the ramifications of a plea agreement with your attorney before signing anything. There may be times when a plea agreement is not in your best interest. Understand your options by discussing them with your attorney.
If you have made it this far, it is likely that you and your attorney have discussed what you should expect. Actual trials are not as glamorous as they appear on Boston Legal or any other television show. Instead, real life trials are generally boring. On TV the actors have a script to follow, in life the lawyers lines are not a perfect.
At your criminal trial you should expect to hear from both your attorney and the prosecutor an opening statement, evidence, and a closing statement. Your criminal trial may be a bench trial, a judge only, or a jury trial. Either way, you and your lawyer will be trying to convince the finder of fact, judge or jury, that the prosecution has been unable to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The importance of legal representation cannot be overemphasized. If you don’t call me for help, call someone. You have legal rights that need to be protected. Good luck.
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The State must prove it's case beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney's job is to challenge the State's evidence. Learn how an attorney can help with the use of Subpoena's and Depositions.
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The attorneys at Emerson Law LLC represent individuals and families throughout Indiana. Our attorneys use their courtroom skill and experience to also assist men and women in family law, personal injury, car accident lawyers and criminal law matters including divorce, child custody modification, and child support modification in Marion County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Hamilton County, Hancock County, Madison County, Johnson County. Cities in which we practice generally include: Zionsville, Lebanon, Whitestown, Carmel, West Clay, Westfield, Noblesville, Fishers, Lawrence, Beech Grove, Speedway, Greenwood, Southport, Franklin, Plainfield, Avon and Danville, Indiana.