So, you’ve been arrested or found out you had a warrant. It may seem like your world is crashing down, but a good attorney can help you out. The process can be long and daunting but read on to find out exactly how your case progresses through the court system, and remember your team of attorneys at Shane A. Taylor, P.C. will be right beside you every step of the way.
Before you ever even get to court, you may be arrested, or you may find out you have a warrant. Police may attempt to interview you, remember that you should always consult your attorney before speaking to the police. If you are in jail, know that all your calls are recorded, and the police can listen to you. Under no circumstances should you talk about your case on the phone.
In Alabama, you are entitled to a bond in almost all cases. Exceptions would be Capital Murder, bond, probation, and parole revocations, and certain Juvenile offenses. You may be given a preset bond at the jail, or you may have to go before a judge. If brought before a judge, you can have a lawyer there to help articulate to the judge the relevant facts in determining your bond amount.
Once you have bonded out you will be given a court date for an arraignment, this hearing is just for you to plead guilty or not guilty.
Next Steps: Misdemeanors
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, after arraignment you will be given either a disposition date in municipal court or a trial date in District Court. Before the trial, you are entitled to discovery from the State or City showing what the evidence is against you. In both cases, the prosecutor may make an offer for a plea deal. An attorney can help negotiate for a better deal and can advise you if an offer is in your best interests, as well as make sure you understand what you are giving up in exchange.
At trial, an attorney is necessary to make evidentiary objections, effectively question witnesses, and argue the facts and law to the trial judge. Misdemeanors are tried before a judge initially, but if you lose you can appeal to Circuit Court to try the case in front of a jury.
Next Steps: Felonies
If you are charged with a felony, after arraignment, you will be given a preliminary hearing date. The prosecutor may still make an offer to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, but by local rule, judges in Mobile County do not accept pleas on felonies in district court. A preliminary hearing is an informal hearing in front of the judge, it is not a trial, and certain rules of evidence are relaxed. If the judge believes there is probable cause he will send the case to the grand jury. Grand jury can take several months, sometimes years, to make a decision on your case; if you are indicted you need to make sure to call up your attorney again.
If you are indicted or if you appeal from a misdemeanor conviction, your case will head to Circuit Court. Much of the process will be repeated during this time with arraignments, status hearings, and the like. Eventually, however the case will be set for a jury trial. Again having a lawyer is necessary at this point as a lawyer can file appropriate motions to keep out evidence, argue for you at hearings, and will know how to select a jury and conduct a trial.
If you are acquitted, please make sure to follow up to see if your case is eligible for expungement. (See previous blog post here) Even certain convictions can be expunged under the new law. If convicted there are options for appeals as well.