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Anatomy of a Criminal Case

If you find yourself caught up in a criminal investigation or arrested for a criminal offense – whether it be a DWI, a narcotics offense, resisting arrest, a violent offense, or some other felony or misdemeanor – your reaction might be to panic, feel hopeless, and tell the police or investigators anything they want to hear in the hopes of getting this nightmare over with as soon as possible. But, rest assured, while you might have to spend a night or longer in jail while charges are filed, you cannot be convicted of a crime until prosecutors prove their case in court beyond a reasonable doubt to a judge or jury.

Thus, trying to take the short-term route of telling the police what they want to hear to “get it over with” can actually have long-term disastrous consequences for your freedom, career, and family. Your best strategy is to contact a good criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible who will guide you through the process of a criminal case, and fight for your rights every step of the way. Below is a brief roadmap of what you can expect as your criminal case moves forward.

The Arraignment

In New York, the defendant’s initial hearing before a judge is called the arraignment. At this point, the judge will inform the defendant of what charges are being filed against him, will determine whether there are enough facts to support a misdemeanor or felony charge, and will set bail. Your criminal defense lawyer will represent you at this hearing, and argue on your behalf regarding the sufficiency of the facts alleged and the amount of bail. If the judge determines there are enough facts to support a misdemeanor charge, then trial will be scheduled in a local criminal court. If the judge determines there are enough facts for a felony charge, the case will be referred to a grand jury.

Grand Jury

A grand jury will determine whether there are enough facts to support a felony charge against a defendant. If it determines that there are enough facts to support a felony charge, it will file an indictment. At that point, there will be another arraignment before a judge, who can schedule the felony trial.

Preparation for Trial and Plea Negotiations

Prior to trial, your criminal defense lawyer will work with you to build a case for your innocence and/or to mitigate the charges down to a lesser charge. This includes conducting an investigation of the evidence against you, locating exculpatory evidence, talking with potential witnesses, and developing legal strategies for your defense. Your attorney will also be in contact with the prosecutors to negotiate a dismissal of the charges or to argue for a lesser charge and/or lesser punishment.

Going to Trial

Pleading – The defendant, based on how strong the defense is, will plead not guilty or guilty to the charges filed. If pleading not guilty, the case will continue to proceed.

Jury Selection – For all felonies and many misdemeanors, the defendant is entitled to a trial by jury. Your lawyer will work to select the jurors most likely to give you a fair judgment.

Opening Arguments – The prosecution will present an overview of its case as to how it will prove that you are guilty of the crimes charged, and your criminal defense attorney will provide an argument as to why you should not be found guilty of the crimes charged.

Prosecution and Defense Present Their Cases – The prosecution will then present evidence for why you should be found guilty. This can include physical evidence and testimony of witnesses. The prosecution will then rest its case. The burden is on the prosecution to show you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and so the defense does not even have to present a case if the prosecution has been unable to do this. But in most cases, the defense will then present its own evidence and witnesses to rebut the prosecution’s evidence.

Closing Arguments – The prosecution and defense will then present closing arguments, again providing an overview for why the jury should find the defendant guilty or innocent.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict – The jury will then deliberate in order to make a determination of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. They will return and deliver their verdict. For a felony trial in New York, all 12 members of a jury must unanimously find the defendant guilty in order to convict.

Sentencing – If there has been a guilty finding, a sentence will then be imposed.

Appealing a Guilty Conviction

If the defendant has been found not guilty, then the state cannot appeal the ruling, based on the double jeopardy guarantee of the US Constitution. But if the defendant is found guilty, he can appeal the decision to an appellate court.

Call Dupée & Monroe – Criminal Defense Attorneys in Goshen

The attorneys at Dupée & Monroe in Goshen represent people throughout Orange County and the Hudson Valley who have been arrested for DWI/DWAI, narcotics and drug charges, and other serious felonies and misdemeanors. By calling our office as soon as possible after an arrest, you will have quality advice and representation from someone who is at your side every step of the way to protect your rights and position you for the best outcome possible in your case. Call 845-294-8900 for immediate assistance.

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