The Stages Involved in a Criminal Case – Explained

Criminal prosecution is a tedious procedure. There are a series of stages involved throughout the whole ordeal. The process would typically start with an arrest and may end right before, during or after the trial depending on how the whole trial worked out. In most cases, the criminal charges are terminated when the accused or defendant accepts a plea bargain presented by the prosecution. In a plea bargain, the defendant would often agree to plead guilty at lesser charges or plead guilty before the court to the charged offense/s. This would give them more lenient punishment or may even result in the dismissal of the original or heavier charges. 


To understand what procedures are involved in a criminal case, here are the stages for this type of court proceedings.




A criminal case usually starts with an arrest or the act of apprehending and taking an accused person into custody. Once the suspected perpetrator is brought in, the authorities can question him/her further. Depending on how the interrogation went on, the accused can be charged and may receive a citation to appear in court. Bear in mind that an arrest can only be executed with a valid arrest warrant. 




If the accused is granted bail, they can post bail in exchange for their conditional release. The bail is the amount of money defendants must pay to be released from custody. However, they must ensure that upon posting bail they would still appear in court for trial and pretrial hearings. 




The arraignment would be the suspect’s first court appearance. The primary purpose of this step is to provide the defendant with the written notice of charges filed against his/her. It is also during this stage where the accused would choose whether s/he pleads “guilty” or “not guilty” of all the charges.


Preliminary Hearing or Inquiry


This is the beginning stages of pretrial in the criminal court process. It pertains to the special proceedings or examinations which are held right before the accused stand before a judge. Through this process, both the defendant and prosecution would determine whether there are enough evidence or probable cause to proceed with the trial. 




According to a criminal litigation law firm, a trial is a formal meeting in the court of law where the judge or the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not of the charges. During this stage, both the defence counsel and prosecutors would present admissible evidence, testimonies, etc. to prove the innocence or guilt of the accused. Once both parties have given their closing arguments, the jury and judge will determine the verdict for the suspect. 




Once the verdict has been decided, the court will now determine the appropriate punishment for the convicted defendant. It is in this stage where the court will consider the severity and nature of the crime, background and remorse shown by the accused. 




An appeal is a request filed by the accused to the higher court to review his/her case. This step doesn’t require the presence of a grand jury nor witnesses and evidence. It is more on reviewing the case to see whether there are errors in the case or the sentence given. If they found anything, the court may reverse the decision or request a retrial. 


May this information you’ve learned allow you to further understand how criminal litigation works. 

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