The holiday season is often the biggest time for crime. If you’ve been accused of committing a crime during the holidays, you’ll want to know just what you’ll need to avoid jail time the rest of 2017 and in 2018.

The Biggest Crime Season is the Holidays

The most common crimes that occur during the holiday season are the following:

  • Identity theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Robbery
  • Drunk Driving
  • Vehicle theft
  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Home burglary
  • Counterfeiting
  • Scams such as phony sweepstakes or charity
  • Domestic Violence

If you’ve been accused of a crime, you’ll want to work with a skilled criminal defense lawyer that can walk you through the steps of the criminal trial process. There are numerous steps of a criminal investigation. A case must be investigated, built, taken to trial, and should the accused be found guilty, the penalties must be determined. Below we outline the first half of what happens following a crime.

Following a Crime – the Pre-Arrest Investigation

A pre-arrest investigation is done following a suspected criminal activity. Once law enforcement is made aware that a criminal activity has occurred, they must investigate what happened before an arrest can be made. Following the investigation, if law enforcement determines evidence that reveals a crime was committed, they must make steps to try and identify a suspect. Once a suspect is identified, law enforcement may arrest the suspect.

Depending on where the crime occurred, law enforcement might be required to first present evidence of the crime to a prosecuting attorney.

Arrest

In an arrest is made, the accused will be taken into custody by law enforcement. An arrest can be made in the following ways:

1) If a law enforcement officer arrives at the scene of the crime and quickly determines there is probable cause for an arrest, the officer is able to take a suspect into custody immediately, or

2) A law enforcement officer is able to make an arrest pursuant (or in accordance) to an arrest warrant. The requirements for making a proper arrest and obtaining a warrant vary jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction and often depend upon whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor.

If You Are Arrested

If you are accused of a crime and arrested, it’s always advised that you hire a criminal defense attorney. If you are arrested, remain silent and ask to speak to a criminal defense lawyer. It is crucial that you remain silent and not say anything until you have received legal guidance.

Initial Appearance

Typically, after an arrest has been made, the accused must be brought before a court. During this initial appearance, the court will inform the accused of the charges he or she is facing. At this time, the court will also advise the accused of his or her rights to legal counsel and to remain silent.

Grand Jury

It’s important to note that not all jurisdictions have grand juries. Depending on the type of case being tried, it might not be required to go before a grand jury. A grand jury is a group of citizens that will hear the case and determine the outcome. This is the type of jury that is selected by people that are summoned to jury duty. These citizens are chosen via the jury decision process, during which they are sworn to secrecy. Following the hearing of he evidence, the grand jury will determine if a case should be indicted or dismissed.

A felony case is usually commenced by grand jury indictment or a preliminary hearing. If a case does go to grand jury, the prosecutor will go in front of a grand jury to ask the grand jury to indict an accused.

Preliminary Hearing

A felony case can also be commenced in a preliminary hearing. This hearing is held within a reasonable time of the filing of the information. If a case can be decided during a preliminary hearing, the defendant has the right to be present and to also be represented by his or her legal counsel. It’s always advised that a defendant obtain legal counsel for such situations, as the common person is not familiar with typical criminal proceedings.

Arraignment

If charges are brought, either by the evidence presented or grand jury indictment (a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime), the defendant is arraigned. During an arraignment, the defendant is formally informed of the charges. The defendant also receives a copy of the indictment and the charges they are facing. At this point, the defendant will enter a plea in response to the charges. A plea bargain can also be made during arraignment. Even if a defendant chooses to not enter a plea, he or she may be released.

Discovery & Motion Practice

During the “Discovery” portion of the pretrial process, the prosecutor and the defendant exchange information and known material regarding the case. The discovery process is governed by each jurisdiction’s rules regarding criminal procedure.

In addition to discovery there is usually considerable pretrial motion practice. This often stems from the discovery. The papers filed in court are actually called “motions.” So when papers are filed with a court, asking it to do something, that is called filing a motion.

Plea Bargaining & Entry of Plea

A defendant may plead guilty pursuant to a plea agreement rather than go to trial. With a plea agreement, a defendant agrees to plead guilty to either the original charge, or to another charge, in return for a concession.

Once presented to a court, one of the following three things will occur: 1) rejection of the plea agreement; 2) discussion of alternatives to the plea agreement that the court deems acceptable; or 3) acceptance of the plea agreement. If a court rejects the proposed plea agreement, the defendant is able to withdraw the guilty plea.

Trial Following Criminal Investigation

A “trial” is the legal proceeding during which evidence is presented either just to a judge, or in front of a jury, for the purpose of determining guilt. Typically, a trial goes before a jury, unless a defendant chooses to waive his or her right to trial by jury or if it the defendant is being charged for a certain misdemeanor. If a case is just heard before a judge it is called a “bench trial.”

Here’s the typically layout for how a trail will proceed:

Voir dire

During “Voir dire” a jury is questioned and then selected. In a capital case, there are two phases of a voir dire: the general void dire phase, and then a death qualification phase.

Guilt Phase

A guilt phase is typically opened with a prosecutor’s opening statement. During this statement a prosecutor will lay out the state’s direct case.

The defense is then able to either make an opening statement, or depending on the jurisdiction, reserve its opening statement for the beginning of its case-in-chief. A defense may ask the court to acquit with the argument that there is legally insufficient evidence to convict a defendant.

If the defense’s motion is denied, the defense will then present its case-in-chief. Following the presentation of the defense case, the prosecutor and defendant are each able present a rebuttal case. Once again, the defense is able to motion for an acquittal. If the defense motion is again denied, closing arguments are presented by each side. The jurisdiction of the case will determine the order of closing arguments. Once the closing arguments are heard, the case is then submitted to the jury or to the bench (in cases where only a judge is hearing the case) for deliberation. Following deliberation, the jury or judge will return a verdict.

Verdict

A judge or jury is asked to return a verdict, which is the decision on the disputed issue in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.

Sentencing

If the defendant has been found guilty on even one count, the counts must be charged and a
formal imposition of the punishment occurs.

During the sentencing hearing, the court has three options:

  • The court may impose sentence, which can include imprisonment or some other punishment, including: probation, community service, or a treatment program.
  • The court may decide not to sentence the offender, but to rather suspend imposition of sentence and place the offender on probation.
  • The court may impose sentence, but suspend the execution of the sentence and place the offender on probation subject to conditions.

After a sentence is imposed, a court will enter a judgment of the conviction, set forth the plea, the verdict, the findings the adjudication, and the sentence imposed. At this point, an offender is able to make a motion to set aside the verdict.

Appellate Review by the Defendant or the State

If a defendant or attorney feels that a court has done something wrong during a trial, the attorney can choose to have the case tried in appellate court.

Probation & Probation Revocation Hearings

A defendant might receive probation instead of imprisonment. Under probation, a defendant does not serve prison time, but is instead released. This release is subject to conditions imposed by the court and is also subject to the supervision of a board of probation or parole.

Parole and Parole Revocation Hearings

Parole is the release of an offender prior to the expiration of the offender’s term. This is determined by a court or board. In many jurisdictions, offenders “come up” for parole prior to the completion of their entire sentence. There is typically a parole hearing to determine if an offender can be released without being a danger to the community.

Compensation/Reparations

Compensation, also known as Reparations, is money paid by the government to victims of crimes. This payment is made in an effort to restore all or part of the financial losses the victim suffered as a result of the crime that was committed against him or her.

Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, being accused of a crime is a very serious matter, and should be handled accordingly. An experience criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on the best defense should you be accused of any number of crimes.

Any criminal charge could result in prison time, other serious penalties, and a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. The good news is that there is a defense to every charge or accusation. Contact our office in Los Angeles at 562-287-5333, at 562-287-5333 or by e-mail to discuss your case with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman