The Complete Process of the US Criminal Justice System

by zizinya on March 8, 2013

(US law) The criminal justice system can be complicated and confusing. If you have been charged with a crime, you will require the representation of an experienced criminal law attorney. As you prepare to meet with your attorney, it will help to understand the fundamental stages of the criminal justice system:

Criminal Investigation

Typically, Law enforcement officials initiate a criminal investigation when they come upon a crime scene or receive a complaint from a victim.

Search Warrant

When an investigating officer has reason to believe that a crime has been committed at a designated location, they must reveal all available evidence to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant. If a judge issues a search warrant, investigators may then search the premises of the alleged crime scene. A search warrant is not required when authorities come upon a crime in process or crucial evidence is likely to be destroyed.


Law enforcement officers are permitted to interrogate any witnesses or likely suspects, but they must also protect the constitutional rights of every person included in the investigation.

Criminal Arrest

If law enforcement officials conclude that there is probable cause that a crime was committed, they may arrest one or more suspects. Nevertheless, authorities must either charge suspects with a crime or release them within one or two days. If you have been arrested for a crime, you should retain the services of a criminal law attorney without delay.

Complaint and Indictment

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, a prosecutor will file a written complaint detailing the accusations against you. Though you may be detained during this phase of the criminal process, the indictment does not represent proof that you committed the crime.

Criminal Arraignment

An arraignment is a formal declaration of the charges against you in court. It’s vital that you have legal representation during this phase of the criminal justice process.

Release on Bail

Though the right to be released on bail is not guaranteed, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be invaluable in securing your release. Release on bail will allow you the time and freedom to prepare an adequate defense. You may be released on bail if you are able to put up sufficient money or property as collateral to minimize the likelihood that you will flee the area.

Plea Negotiation Process

An experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate a favorable plea bargain agreement with the prosecuting attorney. You may be asked to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for dropping the more serious charges listed on the indictment. The plea bargain agreement may involve a reduced sentence or even probation.

Trial and Verdict

In the event that a plea bargain cannot be agreed upon, your case will proceed to a trial by jury or even a bench trial by a judge. The verdict of your guilt or innocence will be unveiled in open court after all the available evidence and testimony has been considered. You may be found innocent of the charges, or you may be pronounced guilty of some or all of the criminal charges. You could also be convicted of a lesser charge than listed in the criminal complaint.

The legal representation of an experienced criminal law attorney is necessary to ensure that your rights are protected during every phase of the criminal justice process. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney knows just how to maneuver through the technical procedures that often determine the ultimate outcome of a criminal case.

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