Generally speaking, after a crime has been committed, a person is arrested if there is credible evidence to indicate a person committed the crime. Sometimes, depending on the nature of the crime (such as white collar crime), a grand jury
will hear evidence (solely from the prosecutor or State) as to whether probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed. If so, an individual will be indicted.
Thereafter, depending on the nature of the crime, the individual may be eligible to put forth a bond for his or her release. The bond serves as collateral for the individual's release, and if the person does not return to future court proceedings, the bond may be forfeited. If there is a risk that the individual could commit future crimes upon release or that the individual may flee, the judge would likely deny bond, and the individual would remain in jail until further proceedings.
At this time, the individual will typically be appointed counsel by the court of he or she cannot afford counsel.
The next step is for the individual to be arraigned. During this time (either prior to arraignment or shortly after), depending on the nature of the crime, the individual-- or if the individual is prudent and wise, the individual's attorney-- may try to negotiate or enter into an agreement with the prosecutor to enter into some form of pre-trial service such as pre-trial diversion. In such a situation, the individual may be able to circumvent the traditional court process by performing some sort of community service and usually paying a fine. In this situation, the individual's case will generally be put on hold (or be placed on a "dead docket") until the individual satisfactorily completes the pre-trial diversion program. If the individual fails to meet his or her obligations under the pre-trial diversion program, then the case will typically be placed back on the docket and move forward. The judge generally has to approve whether an individual will be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program.
At arraignment, an individual is formally read and informed of any charges the State is alleging against the individual. The arraignment may be waived by the individual's attorney if the charges are already known.
Usually, after arraignment, the individual's attorney may attempt to negotiate a plea with the prosecutor in order to resolve the case. Depending on the circumstances, a prosecutor may choose to drop some of the charges in exchange for a plea on one of the counts, and usually any sentence negotiated in a plea would be less than what a person would face if he or she was found guilty by a court. A plea also might entail probation
, where an individual has to follow various terms and guidelines (such as reporting to a probation officer), but will be released. Like pre-trial services, a plea agreement ultimately has to be accepted by the judge.
Thereafter, a person will face trial. Prior to trial, counsel for the state or the individual may file various motions to address issues prior to trial (such as motions to suppress or include evidence, or filing a motion to dismiss
the case due to constitutional violations). A defendant has a right to a trial by jury, but may choose to waive such a right and have a bench trial where the judge effectively serves as the jury.
A trial, both sides present their case, and the jury (or the judge in a bench trial) will decide whether or not the state has proved each allegation beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the defendant will be found guilty on such count. The defendant may be found guilty on some counts but not other counts. Generally speaking, it will be the judge and not the jury who will decide the sentence of the defendant if he or she is found guilty for violating a law.
If a person is found innocent, the matter will be resolved, but if he/she is found guilty, the individual will be sent to prison to serve his or her sentence. Depending on the nature of the sentence, the person may or may not be eligible for parole
after serving a certain amount of time. If the person is eligible for parole, then he or she will usually face a parole board that makes such a determination. Being on parole is similar to being on probation, except there are usually more restrictions on the individual. If an individual commits a crime while on parole, then the parole will usually be revoked and the individual will have to face the remainder of the sentence in prison (in addition to facing charges for any additional crime).
I hope this helps!
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, you should seek and retain local qualified counsel. You should also keep in mind that any information I give you is based on the limited facts you provide me, and any additional facts could substantially or completely alter any information I give you. Just for the record, unless you live in Georgia, I am not licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. In fact, my knowledge of laws is limited to Georgia. I am not an "expert"-- just a lawyer. Any information I provide you is for general information and educational purposes and shall not constitute legal advice. Consider it a good first step in your knowledge acquisition.