The criminal justice system involves a wide range of activities from the investigation, to a legal determination of guilt or innocence. Going through the criminal justice system can be overwhelming, especially, if you are without legal representation. The justice system is made up moving pieces, and no two cases can be exactly the same. Understanding the process, pieces and the players can help a person feel more prepared and comfortable.
What does pressing charges mean?
After the initial police report is made, a "victim" can then decide whether or not they wish to have law enforcement proceed with forwarding the report the district attorney's office for filing of criminal charges. Depending on the crime and the circumstances surrounding it, law enforcement, may proceed with "pressing charges" despite the "victims" desire. The decision to press criminal charges is up to the state, the district attorney's office is vested with this power as it relates to state law.
Under what circumstances would the State decide not to move ahead with the case?
The district attorney's office may feel after reviewing law enforcement's report that they cannot prove guilt and therefore may decide not to press charges. However, before declining to file a case, the district can may choose to send the report back to law enforcement for further investigation. When the report is sent back it is usually accompanied by specific instructions from the district attorney indicating what information is needed in order to have charges filed. It might be surprising to hear but the vast majority of alleged "crimes' are turned down by the district attorney's office for insufficient evidence.
The What happens now after charges are pressed?
The first step is arraignment. At arraignment you are given the opportunity to either plea guilty, no contest or not guilty. Typically a plea of not guilty is entered, at this point you will be given another court date. Many cases are resolved though a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement between the district attorney and the defendant, in which the defendant agrees to plea guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Typically, a plea agreement involves a reduction in penalty that would not occur if the matter were to go to trial and the defendant were to be found guilty.
Only a skilled attorney can provide you with the best plea bargain. Plea bargains are generally better if their issues with the case. Issues can be factual, or can be procedural, essentially, to get the best outcome of the case the district needs to be convinced that their case may be difficult to prove.
If the case does go to trial it will be tried in criminal court, and the victim will generally be asked to testify. As a Fresno criminal defense attorney I have conducted over 25 criminal jury trials in Fresno and Madera counties, from my experience juries want to believe a victim. Over coming that bias is key in obtaining a not guilty verdict.
If you or your loved one is facing criminal charges than call one of Merced's best criminal defense attorney's Adam Rodriguez for your free consultation.